Monday, February 19, 2018

Pearls of Wisdom by Marianne Evans

Marianne Evans
For this month's post, I wanted to share a few pearls of writing wisdom I discovered while exploring Twitter. I was stuck on a plane, headed to Florida in the midst of a massive Michigan snowstorm. As techs de-iced our plane and plows cleared the runways, I wandered through cyberspace and came upon a Twitterspace called Writing & Editing ( @WrtrStat ). I hope you enjoy the encouragement as much as I did, and I highly recommend throwing Writing & Editing a follow! Let me know which ones hit home with you, or inspire your journey - I'd love to compare notes!


And finally, for giggles, let's discuss edit marks!!!


Every saint has a past…and every sinner has a future

Country music bad boy Chase Bradington is on the comeback trail. Fresh from rehab for alcohol addiction, and transformed by the power of Christ, Chase is battling to rediscover the music he loves and a career he nearly ruined. Then he meets up and comer, Pyper Brock, and instantly sparks ignite.

Pyper knows of Chase’s reputation, so despite a rampant attraction to the handsome and talented icon, she soundly dismisses his romantic overtures. Decades ago, her father, in a drunken rage, tossed her and her mother onto the streets. No way will Pyper make the mistake of falling for a man whose done battle with the bottle.

What happens when Chase’s quest to win Pyper’s love breaks down chains of resentment and eases the long buried wounds of her childhood? And what happens when Pyper’s father shows up in Nashville, clean, sober and seeking a chance to apologize?

Can Pyper follow a pathway to peace when it comes to her father? Can she fully trust Chase? Above all, can a sin damaged past be released in favor of forgiveness?

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, February 16, 2018

History to Fantasy: Picking Your Genre by Erica Marie Hogan

Erica Marie Hogan

How do you feel about writing in different genres? Have you stuck with one—written in several-- contemplated switching? Author Erica Marie Hogan shares her personal journey with genres. 
~ Dawn

History to Fantasy:
Picking Your Genre

I decided I wanted to be a serious writer when I was thirteen. Making such a decision, was the easy part. I then decided I must pick my genre! Because an author can have only one, right?

As I began to write, I started with Historical Fiction. I happen to love reading Historical Fiction; the majority of the many books on my shelves fall under that genre. Then one day, I picked up a Young Adult novel. Suddenly, that was what I wanted to write. I wanted to write Young Adult novels based in Dystopian worlds. Then I read The Wheel of Time series, and I simply had to be a fantasy author! As I grappled with a decision on which genre I would devote myself to, I began to wonder. Did I have to limit myself?

My debut novel, The Lost Generation: A Novel of World War I, was the first historical novel I finished. I wrote it many years ago, when I was still very new to writing, but somehow I knew it would be the first book I’d have published. Nothing made me happier than the day that happened. Yet there was still something nagging at me. So I made the big decision. I refused to restrict myself.

When I announce to people that I write in all genres, these questions are always raised:



Isn’t that confusing?

Shouldn’t you stick to one thing you know you’re good at?

Once, I was even told it was impossible to be able to write in every genre, even though I’ve seen authors do so time and again. The truth is, I never want to lose the amazing feeling I had when I first began to write. I never want to think of my imagination—of writing and creating stories people will enjoy—as a job. Which is why, when it comes to genre, I have no limits. I learn something new about myself every time I sit down at my computer and it’s wonderful.

So, my second published novel Winter Queen (The Winter Queen Series, #1), was born. The moment I made the choice to do what felt right, to never limit myself, I succeeded and wrote my first fantasy novel. My love of history hasn’t waned, and my excitement to write fantasy has only grown. Exploring the different ways of writing different genres is such a thrill.

There are many times as a writer, when you might question if you’re meant to be doing this. When you might question the genre—or genres—you’ve chosen. The most important thing to remember, is that writing is a gift. God has placed it on your heart to write, so allow Him to guide you where you need to be. He’s given you the tools, so run with them. Because as we believe in Him, He believes in us. So don’t limit yourself. Don’t hold back.

Write for yourself. Write for the Lord.

She will bring a storm like
none they’ve ever seen ...
and change the world forever.

It’s been five years since Roderick Kael murdered King Vihaan Sundragon, claiming the throne of Sunkai and all of Nfaros for himself. Five years since the Princesses Adlae, Mirae, and Brae were forced to give up everything they’ve ever known. Five years since the Creator of All allowed winter’s snow to fall. But now the wind stirs with a familiar chill. Winter is coming down from the Ice Mountains, brought by the only one who can wield the storm. The Winter Queen herself.

In a faraway wood, one who survived watches and waits for her chance to reclaim what is hers by blood and birthright. Within the walls of the city, another bears the burden of survival and the consequences that came with it. Across the sea, from the distant mountains, two strangers come in search of one who can save them from the ice of winter.

Within the palace of Sunkai, evil stirs. Loyalties are tried; love tested. And amidst these strange events, the Winter Queen prepares her storm ... and Nfaros is not ready for her rage.

From as far back as she can remember, Erica Marie Hogan loved to write. When she was a little girl she adored make believe, but gradually her imagination became too big to restrict it to playtime and so, she wrote.

Erica was born and raised for nine years on Orient Point, Long Island, New York. After that she moved with her family to Virginia and, finally, to Texas where she now lives. She lives to plot new stories, enjoys a good tear-jerker, and chocolate is her cure for any ailment. Once a month Erica publishes a post on her blog, By the Book: Diary of a Bookaholic, where she shares her experiences with writing and, occasionally, a book review. She is represented by Jim Hart of Hartline Literary Agency.

Erica’s debut novel, The Lost Generation was long listed in the 2017 INSPY Awards and nominated for the Christian Retailing’s Best Awards.

Connect and learn more by visiting these sites:

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Growing as a Writer Through Critiques by Sherrinda Ketchersid

We have all been there as writers – the place where our work has been marked through with a red pen, shredded, chewed, and thrown out as worthless. Whether it be in contest scores, a writer’s group, or a critique partner, we have experienced the pain of a hurtful critique.

Last year I changed direction from writing historical and attempted to write a YA story. I entered a writing contest and when I received scores back from the judges, I was devastated. Comments like “This does not sound like YA.” and “From a YA perspective, it’s not believable.” really hurt my heart. Out of all the contestants, I ranked next to last. Ouch!

So what is a writer to do? Besides stuffing my mouth with chocolate, I gave the feedback some time to sit, then reevaluated the critiques. You know what? What the judges said was true. My writing was not YA material. I could see their point and was able to embrace their words for what it was…truth.

Things to consider when receiving critiques:
  • You want to grow as a writer, so have an open mind. What things can you learn from the suggestions given?
  • Has more than one critique pointed out the same problems? If so, consider this a confirmation you need to fix the issue.
  • Ask questions and get clarification if you are confused by the critique.
  • Remember that writing and reading is subjective. Ultimately, you can choose not to make changes to your story.
Those who critique other people’s work need to learn the best way to offer feedback. I am part of two different critique groups. One group is online and the other is a group that meets together twice a month to read their work aloud for critique. These groups have taught me invaluable lessons in giving construction critiques.

Things to consider when giving a critique:
  • Always start off with praise for the good things you find in the other person’s work. This sets the tone for critique and acts as a buffer for the criticism to come.
  • Don’t use harsh words. Be considerate and offer suggestions to correct the problem.
    • YES: Your dialogue is fantastic and I feel like I’m right there, but I’m pulled out of the scene with the dialogue tags. Instead of using “she yelled”, you could use an action beat that shows her anger.
    • NO: You use way too many dialogue tags.
  • If there is an issue with plot or scenes not moving forward, help the writer brainstorm ideas to bolster areas that need improvement.
  • While you want to be gentle in your critique, you do want to be honest. To give only praise to a new writer won’t make them a better writer. Give constructive criticism to help them improve.
Receiving criticism is not for the faint of heart, but if we want to grow as writers, we need to embrace each and every critique with an open mind. You have asked for feedback, so cull through the critique and learn ways to become a better writer. That is the end goal.

What about you? What have you learned from critiques? How have you grown as a writer from giving critiques? I would love to hear your experiences!

Sherrinda Ketchersid is a born and bred Texan, preacher’s wife, and mother to 4 children. With the children grown and out of the house, she weaves tales of fierce knights and their ladies in a time where men were warriors and women had to be strong enough to keep them in check.

After taking time off from writing, she has returned with a new motto in place to spur her on. “Writers write. Everyone else makes excuses.” Jack Bickham.  No excuses this time. She is weaving her love of romance with history to bring joy and the hope of love to those who may one day read her stories.
Personal blog:
Twitter: @sherrinda
Instagram: @sherrinda


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Rule of Five for Writers by Misty M. Beller

John Maxwell, the great leadership guru, has taught for years about his "Rule of 5" daily practice. The Rule of 5 is simply a series of activities that you do EVERY DAY that are fundamental to your success. For John, his Rule of 5 are as follows: every day he reads, every day he files, every day he thinks, every day he asks questions, and every day he writes.

Picture a forest of trees in your backyard - massive pecans and oaks. If you choose one tree to strike at with five swings of an ax every day, eventually you'll cut down that tree. If you take five swings at five random trees each day, what will you end up with? An ugly forest full of scarred trees.

I love this concept for so many reasons, but mostly because it makes succeeding at huge tasks manageable, and helps build productive habits. When you write a book, you most likely use the Rule of 5 concept to make it to The End. Breaking those 75,000 words into a daily count makes the long haul less daunting, right?

This same concept applies so well when growing your email list, or even getting approved for a Bookbub Featured Deal. It's all about being Intentional and Consistent (in that order).

So what are my Rule of 5 for writing and marketing books? What are the 5 things I do every day that help me write books and grow my readership?

1. Time with God. I’ve recently shifted my devotional time to just before I begin writing (instead of first thing in the morning). This new time is when my mind is clearest and I don’t have the craziness of a morning with three kids under the age of 11. The change has been so refreshing!

2. Work on my WIP. Whether I'm in the plotting/planning stage, writing the first draft, or editing, I always touch the book I'm currently writing, because that's what I must do to make forward progress with it. I always have goals for how much progress I should make daily, so it's great if I meet that goal. But even if I don't meet the goal, I need to do something. Because producing regular content is critical to keeping (and growing) a happy fan base.

3. Answer emails. For me, I need to set aside time for this so I can give my responses the focus the recipient deserves. It's just the way my brain works. :) So to give this task the priority it needs, I've made this one of my 5.

4. Prepare for my upcoming book release. When I'm in typical book production mode, I try to always have a book available for pre-order with a firm release date. At the beginning of a pre-order, I create a plan to market the book, although the plan is very flexible! I implement the marketing plan as I go, and it's best done in small, daily pieces. So for today, maybe I need to schedule a blog tour, or maybe I need to schedule free days for the previous book in the series, or maybe I need to write an email to my list. The possibilities are endless, but I should already have a list of my planned actions for the book release, and every day I need to accomplish a small something from that list.

5. Think about Advertising or Email List growth opportunities. Separate from a new release, do I need to submit for a Bookbub or ENT ad for a backlist book? I put reminders in my calendar for when each book is likely due for one of these larger ads, but it's not completely auto-pilot. I still need to tweak submission timing by number of reviews on a particular book or my release plan for other books. For my reader email list, do I have specific list-building tools in process that need attention (like FB Lead Gen ads)? Or do I need to sign up for group giveaways? Maybe my automated welcome sequence needs to be updated.
So there you have it, my Rule of 5 for writing and marketing books this year.

And how about you? What are some of the things you do intentionally each day to keep yourself on track? Please share!


Misty M. Beller writes romantic mountain stories, set on the 1800s frontier and woven with the truth of God’s love, including her latest release, This Treacherous Journey.
She was raised on a farm in South Carolina, so her Southern roots run deep. Growing up, her family was close, and they continue to keep that priority today. Her husband and daughters now add another dimension to her life, keeping her both grounded and crazy.
Connect with Misty at her website, marketing blog for authors, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Bookbub, and Pinterest. 

Widowed and with child, Emma Malcom is fleeing from the reward offered for her arrest. She’s innocent of the dirty dealings her deceased husband orchestrated, but the angry townspeople didn’t stop to listen to her defense before she narrowly escaped with her life. Now, she and her twin brother, Joseph, must battle the mountain wilderness of the Rockies to reach Canada and the clean start she craves. But when a fall from the rocky cliff leaves Joseph wounded and weak, could the strange mountain man they encounter be God’s gift to see them to safety?

Simeon Grant makes bad choices. His deceased wife and twin babies are lost to him now because of his reckless decisions, and the penance he pays by living alone in this mountain wilderness is only a small piece of what he thinks he deserves. When a city woman, heavy with child, appears on his doorstep with her injured brother, her presence resurrects the memories he’s worked so hard to forget. And when she asks for his help to travel deeper into the mountain country, he can’t help wonder why God would force him to relive the same mistakes he’s already suffered through. Or maybe taking these two to safety could be the way to redeem himself.

But when their travels prove more treacherous than he imagined, Simeon finds himself pressing the limits of his ability to keep Emma and her brother safe. Can he overcome the past that haunts him to be the man she needs? Will Emma break through the walls around Simeon’s heart before it’s too late, or will the dangers of these mountains be the end of them all?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Give Your Characters a Personality Test by Marie Wells Coutu

Creating fully developed characters can make or break your novel. No author wants to read a review that criticizes his book because the characters are “cardboard” or “one dimensional.”
Marie Wells Coutu

On my bookshelf, I have at least four different titles on building realistic characters, not to mention the numerous other craft books that devote chapters to the topic. Some writers use a 100-item questionnaire to “interview” their main characters about everything from their favorite food to their life goals.

Of course, it is important to know your hero and heroine’s backstory. Her story goal, greatest dream, dark moment of the past, and greatest fear are all important to developing a character your readers want to spend time with.

But I’ve also found that I need to know more about her personality. Otherwise, my characters all act and sound like me.

If you’ve ever worked in corporate America, you’ve probably heard of the Meyers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator or another personality test. You may even know your own 4-letter code. But have you ever given your characters a personality test?
There are several free quizzes online (just type “personality test” in your search box) and some that make the rounds on Facebook, but here are three that I like.
Meyers-Briggs uses 16 combinations of 4 letters. The test on this site ( can be done in about 10 minutes. After your character “takes” the test, read the description of strengths and weaknesses, career paths, and relationships. (I copy and paste the detail into my Scrivener document.)

If 16 variations seem overwhelming, some tests have fewer categories and more memorable labels. From the same site, you can find out what “color” your character is: For instance, my heroine for my current WIP is Purple and my hero is Orange. Again, descriptions help you understand each personality or “true color.”
Christian authors Gary Smalley and John Trent developed a quiz that uses four animal types: Lion, Otter, Golden Retriever, and Beaver. You can print their quiz from this site: You’ll see how the animal names play out for each personality.

No matter which test you use (I use all three and combine the results), the descriptions of that personality help me to keep my character acting consistently throughout the novel. It also enables me to develop aspects of his personality that I wouldn’t think of on my own, since he’s not like me. To provide an extra dimension, I may have him demonstrate a trait opposite his defining quality, but then I know I need to show his motivation for the change. If he’s normally likable and personable, in one scene he may act rudely, but I’ll want to show the trigger that causes him to act that way. (It may foreshadow his dark moment event later in the story.)

What’s even more fun is when the personality descriptions provide specific ideas for scenes. For example, my heroine (an ISFJ) is described as a “rule-follower” who “does things by the book.” The description states, “You can also become pushy and judgmental when you don’t agree with others’ decisions.” Bingo! When she’s upset over the actions of the hero, I can create a scene showing her to be pushy and judgmental without contradicting her loyal and responsible personality. Such a scene will deepen her character by revealing an underlying contradiction.

From these personality explanations, I can also see how my heroine and hero will react to each other and interact with other characters.

Spending the time to give my main characters personality tests helps make these people that inhabit my stories more believable. 

What tips do you have for keeping the characters in your stories from being all alike or one-dimensional?

About the Author
The Secret Heart
by Marie Wells Coutu
Marie Wells Coutu began making up stories soon after she began talking. Her most recent title, The Secret Heart, and its prequel, an e-book novelette titled The Divided Heart, are published by Write Integrity Press, along with the award-winning For Such a Moment and Thirsting for More. She and her husband divide their time between Iowa, near their two children and four grandchildren, and Florida, where it’s warm all winter. Marie is working on a historical novel set in western Kentucky, her home state.

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

Monday, February 12, 2018

Never Lie to Them

by Peter Leavell @peterleavell

The five hardest things I’ve done in life are as follows:

1. College Math Theory
2. Algebra 1
3. Ask my wife to marry me (worried she would say no)
4. Prealgebra.
5. Write a middle grade reader.

6. Counting past 5.

Like math, writing for kids is a different language. As was asking my wife to marry me.

Normally, I write historical fiction. After studying kids books for two years, here’s a few lessons Ken Raney and I learned when we wrote Dino Hunters: Discovery in the Desert.

—Kids need the plot to MOVE! Action, conflict, fix something. Grownups talk. Kids act.

—How long does a child take to make a decision? Either the time it takes to read a short sentence or the time it takes for them to read War and Peace in Russian. They might be stumped for a bit, but of the hundreds of decisions in a day they need to make, kids think and act fast. Thinking in long, drawn-out scenes isn't realistic. Keep decision making short and use a single sentence of decision that is powerful, direct, and logical.

—Problem solving in books is similar to how they solve problems in real life. Bad guys are charging! Duck! Run! Fight! Homework assigned! Duck! Run! Fight! Their world is not divided. Their world is a whole. At that age we haven’t quite learned to leave work at work. If something works in one setting, many times, they will try it again. If saying a swear word works at school, might as well try it at home. Yowza!

—Normalize their feelings and they will see the characters as friends, so that they say, ‘you too? I thought I was the only one!’

—Boys and girls love mystery. Who is stealing the pie? But if they find out who is the thief, the main character MUST be the main reason the culprit is caught. Few things are more irritating than reading an entire book and find out the pie is stolen by a dog and everyone just laughs. What's the point of telling the story if the characters aren't making changes in the story?

—Twelve-year-old boys don’t believe the bad guy. Bad guys lie. The truth of the plot must come from the good guys. Studies showed boys didn't believe Vader was Luke's father until the words came from Yoda's lips in Return of the Jedi.

—Children have emotions, deep emotions. But boys and girls are taught to hold them inside, and if they let them out, they’re told to be more adult. So, they find solace in television and books. Write so they choose books.

—The last thing they need is preached at. They get up, go to public school and learn how their world is counting on them to be good people, or Christian schools and homeschool and they learn about God and how bad the world is. They know the stakes are high. They just need a bit of escape.

—They read above their age level. The average grade level on books are for average students. If they’re picking up a book—a serious time investment for a child—it’s because they can handle big concepts.

—Trust them. Give them truth, no matter how difficult. And never, ever lie to them.



Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing's Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter's books, research, and family adventures at


Siblings Josh and Abby Hunter don’t believe their parents’ death was an accident. After taking pictures of the most incredible find of the 1920’s—proof humans and dinosaurs lived together in the same time and place—desperate outlaws armed with tommy guns are on their tail! Only Josh and Abby know where the proof is hidden—in the canyons of Arizona’s desert. When an intruder searches Josh and Abby’s bags inside their new home, the two convince their uncle Dr. David Hunter to return to the canyon and find the pictures they’d hidden. But the outlaws are just as eager to find the proof before Josh and Abby. Can Josh use his super-smart brain to outfox the villains in time? Will Abby’s incredible physical abilities stop full-grown men? And will their uncle believe them? 

Dino Hunters is an apologetics-adventure series aimed at the middle reader to help them trust the Bible from the very first verse.

Buy Links: 

Friday, February 9, 2018

What We Do Is Not Who We Are by Dennis Ricci

Dennis Ricci

We call ourselves “writers.” But today, author Dennis Ricci challenges us to dig deep and change our perspectives. By the way, how do you view your identity? ~ Dawn

What We Do 
is Not Who We Are

You are not a writer. Nor am I.

Oh, we write. A lot. We craft stories that show a dying world who God is and how He works through people. We want our stories to bend the cultural narrative toward seeing the Father and his unconditional love through Jesus.

But “writer” is not who we are.

I’ve recently led our men’s group through a discovery tool called The Purpose Train, developed by Stephen K. De Silva. It helps people discover their purpose, vision, strategy and daily choices and actions (“tactics”) so they can streamline the life decisions they make. It’s helping me make big changes, and I believe you’ll find it helpful too. Here’s a graphic representation:

Identity: Who we believe we are in Christ, and who we believe God uniquely made us to be, is the “track” on which our lives will travel. Proverbs 4:23 teaches us, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” We share a common family identity—sons and daughters. But we each have a personal identity as unique as our physical appearance. Some stop at “child of God”—a sure foundation, but there is more.

Purpose: Our understanding of our purpose is the “engine” that pulls us through life. We have a collective purpose—love God, love people, make disciples—and a specific purpose He prepared for us long ago. If our beliefs about identity and purpose align with God’s intentions, our “engine” will pull us down the right track. The way to be sure is to continually seek Him and listen.

Vision: God created each of us to bear unique fruit. Ideally, our vision aligns with God’s designed output of our life—what we produce and who we become in the process. We have the joy of discovering vision as we walk with Him.

Strategy: The things we will do and won’t do to manifest our vision. We can make our own decisions and plans about strategy, but we know the Lord gives the right answer if we seek Him for it (Proverbs 16:1).

Writer, then, is not who we are but the strategic choice we make to use our gifts and talents. We may be called to write—a specific project or type of stories—or we may write because it makes us come alive, and we do it as an offering to Him. Writing proceeds from our identity.

Tactics: Our “action plan”—our daily choices and actions to execute our strategies. I’m best equipped to stay faithful to strategies if I pursue daily, intimate communion with the Lord. My biggest challenges are allowing the “urgency of the moment” or “how I’m feeling today” to push my life train forward.

By the way…I’ve discovered a secondary benefit of using this model—as a character development tool. True character is revealed when people are forced to choose between irreconcilable goods or the lesser of two evils. Try using the Purpose Train to imagine your characters’ understanding of their identity and purpose and vision for their lives, which become the centers of conflicts they are thrust into and engage.

PS: I’d be happy to share the tools I developed for helping our men’s group apply the Purpose Train to their lives and my own personal example. Click here to email me.


Federal judge Edward Lamport is no stranger to controversy and danger. Nine months into his tenure, he’s received two death threats and is under the protection of US Marshals. But when he receives a plea for help from a woman with whom he had a brief romance twenty-five years earlier, he must face a peril of a different sort, one that involves his long-lost son, Carlos.

While working for a bank in his native Mexico, Carlos discovers an international money-laundering scheme. Now he’s on the run from those who want him dead. To get the young man asylum in the United States, Lamport appeals to his highest connections in Washington, only to find puzzling dead ends at every turn. Caught between law and love, he’s forced to take the matter into his own hands. With only his faith in God to guide him, how far is he willing to venture into the dark recesses of political corruption to save his son?

Before penning fiction, Dennis Ricci worked as a freelance marketing strategist, copywriter, and instructional designer. He also mentors aspiring writers, conducts writing workshops, and advises marketing professionals on strategy and content. Ricci lives in Thousand Oaks, California, with his wife, Jill, where they serve their community through a Healing Rooms ministry dedicated to praying for the sick. He has three grown children with whom he loves spending time at Los Angeles Kings hockey games, especially when they play his hometown Detroit Red Wings.

To connect and learn more, please visit:

Twitter: @DRicciAuthor