Friday, February 21, 2020

The “Good Stuff” by JoAnn Durgin

Meme with Ephesians 2:10

The “Good Stuff”

The family gathered on a recent Sunday afternoon for a very special celebration—our granddaughter Amelia’s fifth birthday party. My daughter and Amelia’s mother, Chelsea, made a festive cake with three different-colored layers and a design of chocolate candy beads on the top. If I may brag, it tasted as delicious as it looked.

Then it was time to open her presents! Like most children (and some adults), Amelia quickly tears away the wrapping paper in her haste to get to the gift inside. Her facial expressions are comical as she puts her hands over her mouth or lifts her hands in the air to express her delighted surprise with appropriate oohs and aahs.

My favorite moment of her birthday? With one of the first gifts, she ripped open the paper and then exclaimed in a joyful tone, “It’s a box!” You’d think the box itself was the best gift she’d ever received. I loved that moment of sweet innocence before she opened the lid to see the treasure nestled inside. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all be content with something as simple as a box?

Photo of wrapped gift
My mother was a master gift wrapper, especially for Christmas gifts. She expertly measured, creased, folded, and even used “invisible” double-stick tape. She fashioned gorgeous bows from different types of ribbon, pinecones, bells, and any manner of embellishments. Later in life, she lovingly handcrafted the tags. Mama took great pride in her creations, and without fail, the gifts looked professionally wrapped, worthy of the finest department store. My brother and I each received five gifts for Christmas, and my “special” gift each year (usually the one at the top of my wish list that I opened last) was wrapped in a beautiful gold foil paper with the same beautiful angel adornment every year.

I’ve tried to carry on my mother’s wrapping tradition, but I’m not quite as meticulous (double-stick tape drives me crazy!). When I only need one gift—for a wedding or baby shower, for instance—I love to create a unique design using artificial flowers and ribbons that starts on top and trail down the sides of the box. The most satisfying compliment is when someone says it’s almost “too pretty to unwrap.”

We all like and appreciate lovely things, but one lesson we learn as we grow older is that what’s on the outside is sometimes prettier than what’s on the inside. That lesson applies to people as well as things. First Samuel 16:7 tells us, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (NIV)

As a kid, I loved Tootsie Pops (and still enjoy them on occasion), but they can be an exercise in patience. Do you savor the hard, sweet candy on the outside? Or do you chomp through the candy to get straight to the chocolate-flavored, chewy Tootsie Roll inside? If you’re like me, you skip the outer candy entirely and simply buy a bag of miniature Tootsie Rolls! That works splendidly because I only want the “good stuff.”

That theory doesn’t work so well when applied to a novel, however. In the books we write, we can have a stunning cover, but we also need to make sure the story inside does justice to its beautiful exterior. Think of the cover and exterior package as the “wrapping” and the actual book as the “gift” nestled inside—the treasure, if you will. Focus on building a story world readers can immerse themselves in, filled with fascinating characters and a riveting plot.

What’s at the “heart” of your novels? Is the inside as pretty as the outside? Through your words, are you revealing the power of Christ to your reader—His redemption, grace, love, forgiveness, and promise of eternal life in heaven? If you can, that’s truly the “good stuff” that’ll give them something to savor and chew on. And that’s oh so satisfying indeed.

Until His Nets Are Full,

Matthew 5:16

What's at the "heart" of your novels? #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @Gr8tReads
Getting to the "good stuff" in what we write! #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @Gr8tReads
Is the inside of your book as pretty as the outside? #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @Gr8tReads

The Valentine Verse
The Valentine Verse

Valentine’s Day isn’t just for February 14th anymore! Love should be celebrated every day of the year. That’s Thornton Fielding’s philosophy. In spite of a few false starts in the arena of love, he holds out hope he’ll eventually find the woman of his dreams. The problem? He loves his job, and there’s no end in sight to his travels. But when Thornton returns to his tiny hometown of Cherish, Minnesota, he meets a beautiful and intriguing woman he believes might be God’s answer to ending his bachelor status—permanently.

Vara Alexandris is soured on love and scoffs at the notion of soul mates. But soon after meeting the handsome and unconventional Thornton, the speech and language pathologist suspects he might be the perfect ally to help jump-start her stroke patient’s recovery—if only Vara can keep Thornton grounded in Cherish long enough. This man who spouts romanticized and idealistic ideas about love seems all too eager to resume his world travels. Could it be Thornton actually prefers globetrotting in order to avoid a romantic relationship?

Is it time for Vara to call the dreamer’s bluff? And can Thornton convince Vara to put past heartache behind her and trust in God’s plan for her heart?

JoAnn Durgin
USA Today Bestselling Author JoAnn Durgin is the author of more than thirty novels, including the Lewis Legacy Series, Prelude, the Starlight Christmas Series, Catching Serenity, Hearts Design, Gentle Like the Rain, Whisper to My Heart, the Serendipity Christmas Series, the Treasured Vow Series, the Wondrous Love Series, If You Believe, Echoes of Edinburgh, Portrait, and The Valentine Verse. Her most recent release is Love on Assignment in Millcreek, Book 1 of The Millcreek Christmas Series. She’s also written three novels under the pen name of Julianna Desmond, her latest being Only A Whisper Away.

A former estate administration paralegal, JoAnn writes contemporary Christian romance full-time and lives with her family in her native southern Indiana.

Feel free to connect with her at
or via her website at

Thursday, February 20, 2020

What is a series bible…and why do you need one? by Lisa Phillips

Hello, fellow writers! *waves*

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Lisa Phillips. That is a COMPLETELY ACCURATE photo of me. (Guess who just realized she needs a headshot that’s not five years old?)

I love writing series novels almost as much as I love dogs. Don’t even get me started on my giant adorable Airedale ball of crazy. I’ll be here all day. I write for Love Inspired Suspense, and I indie publish on the side.

That’s two whole blogs right there. And who wouldn’t want to read one about dogs? I’d love to write about being a hybrid author—it’s a great way to make this writer career thing work. But it probably wouldn’t be as good as the dog one.

So…series bibles.
Instead of telling you why you might need one, I’ll do the writerly thing and SHOW you.

Here’s a quote from a book I wrote a few years ago. My first full series (so be nice, lol.) The first book is called Sanctuary Lost:

John looked at the guy in line ahead of him. Early thirties but he was nearly bald, his glasses drooped on his nose and he gripped his plate of mostly bread and green beans. “I’m Terrence Evangeline.” He pointed at an older couple by the salads. “That’s my mom, Shelby and my dad, Aaron. They run the town’s community arts programs.”

Now here’s a quote from book three, Sanctuary Breached:

“There is also the problem of Andy.”
Nadia glanced at the man for the shortest possible amount of time. Sure enough, Andy Evangeline was staring at her. Why, Lord? He’d been nursing a terminal crush for months now, and it didn’t seem to be easing off. Nadia was the focus of his attention every second he wasn’t at the recycling center. Who knew what he thought about when he wasn’t watching her or following her around. It was the last thing she needed in the middle of this.

See the problem?
Somehow *cough-distracted mom writer-cough* a secondary character who was Terrence Evangeline in book one, was suddenly Andy Evangeline in book 3.
Oh what, oh what, is a writer to do?

Here’s where genre came in super handy. See, I write romantic suspense. This particular series? It’s about a town of people all in the witness protection program, also known as WITSEC (witness security). People change their names in witness protection all the time, right?

Enter the solution. Book 5, Sanctuary Forever, we were back in town and ready to wrap things up—which of course meant I needed a solution.

“Hi, Andy.”
He crossed his arms on the counter and smiled. “It’s Terrence. I’ve decided to go back to my first name again instead of my middle name.”
He looked like he expected her to say something, but she didn’t. Why would she care if he was having an identity crisis? She didn’t even like the man and never had.

Two more series and a lot of books later, I’ve decided to make life easier for myself.

This is my new series. Aren’t my covers AWESOME? Seriously, my cover designer (now that I’ve decided to quit doing it myself *blog post alert*) is so good!
Me? More like, meh. But that was a solid business decision.

Another business decision I made with this series?

One designed to save me hours of headache?

A series bible.

Right now it looks a lot like a messy spreadsheet, but the moment the first character walked onto the page in Expired Refuge, I wrote down her name. Age. Occupation. Hair color. Defining features. Key personality traits. Family members who live in town.

And so on, and so on.

Every time I open that first draft document, the spreadsheet gets opened too. Is it foolproof? No, because I’m a human and we all make mistakes. But this will cut down on SO MANY continuity problems I don’t need and don’t have time for.

Businesses in town. Street names. People who lived there years ago. The name of the vet, who won’t get a novel about him until next year? All of it gets noted down.

So how about you?
Do you have a series bible, or a way to keep track of these details? I’d love to know your secret. Or maybe you could just tell me what the plural of “series” is, because clearly I have no idea.

And after you’ve left a comment, feel free to swing by Amazon, KOBO, Nook or Apple Books and grab a copy of Expired Refuge!! You can find out more at

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Adventures in Indie Publishing—A Good Cover Matters by Patty Smith Hall

My first month in indie publishing was an active one, and I didn’t even publish a book. Last month, I took a five-day Amazon Ad challenge with Bryan Cohen (he has another challenge coming up in April that I highly recommend,) started a website on WordPress, and wrote one-third of a new novella for Barbour which will satisfy my last traditional contract. So, out of all of this, what did I learn?

A good cover matters.

As I said earlier, I took The Five-Day Amazon Ad Challenge with Bryan Cohen, and as part of it, I had to make several different types of ads—automatic and keyword—then watch how these ads performed over several days to see which were more productive. For this project, I selected Courting Doctor Clark, one of the books Harlequin gave me back when the Love Inspired Historical closed down.

I was excited to advertise this book. It was part of the Heartsong Presents division that LIH bought out, but never promoted. But as the days drew out, I was getting clicks but no sales. When I asked Bryan about this, he asked me some pointed questions regarding my cover. Did my cover attract the kind of reader I wanted? Was it in line with my genre? If I saw my cover, would I want to buy the book?

So, I went back and looked at my cover:

Though I liked this cover, I’m not sure it appealed to my audience which is a thirty-five to forty-year-old woman who loves to read as an escape and enjoys history. It looked more like a regency than the American historical romance I wrote. If I was completely honest with myself, I probably wouldn’t buy it if I saw the cover alone.

After studying the one hundred best sellers in my genre, I contacted the new cover designer I’m working with, paged through her ready-art covers and found one that answered most of the questions Bryan had asked me. It’s not the perfect cover, but in order to see if my Amazon ads worked, I needed to change it fast.

Here’s the new cover:

Within twenty-four hours, I saw a dramatic difference in my sales and KU page read-throughs. I continued my ads through this month and to date, my sales/read-throughs have gone from the single digits to triple digit sales, a 3000 percent increase as of February 14.

So, what did I learn? Covers matter, particularly when you’re using Amazon to distribute your book. Think about it—when someone types in ‘historical romance’ into Amazon’s search engine, they’re presented with a list of books. No blurbs or reviews, just covers.

Like I said, covers matter!

What do you find appealing in the covers of your favorite books? Do you buy a book because of the cover? Why?

Covers matter, particularly when you’re using Amazon to distribute your book. via @pattywrites #SeriouslyWrite #amwriting


Patty Smith Hall lives in North Georgia with her husband of 36+ years, Danny. Her passion is
to write tender romances based in little-known historical moments. The winner of the 2008 ACFW Genesis award in historical romance, she is published with Love Inspired Historical, Barbour and Winged Publishing, and is a contributor to the Seriously Writing blog as well as Journey magazine. Patty is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. 

4 Women Bring Southern Charm to a Cowboy Town 
Crinoline Creek, Texas, 1868
A Cowboy of Her Own by Patty Smith Hall

Bookish southern belle Madalyn Turner knows what she wants—to be a cowboy and own a Texas ranch. But books are far different from real life and soon she realizes she needs help.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

God Loves Me, But Do I Love God? By Shannon Redmon

God loves me.

This is a truth ground into our heads and hearts from the time we are children to adulthood. We believe that no matter what we do, God will always love us. We believe in a kind and merciful God and yes, He does love us with everything He is. But do we truly love Him?

The Bible reads, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17

Yet, on a recent popular television show, this truth was used to celebrate a choice that went directly against God’s Word. We see our world championing choices we know God would never condone and wrapping them in the words, “It’s okay if I do this immoral thing, because God still loves me.”

This should never be.

While God’s love never fails any of us, maybe we should consider this … “Yes, God loves me. But do I love God?”

When we love someone or something, we don’t choose to cause that person pain. We don’t choose to go out and do things that we know would intentionally hurt or fly right in their face.

But so many people who claim God’s love, live in a way that demonstrates a blatant disrespect for Him. The life of a Christian should represent the principles of His Word, a living, breathing testament to the love, faith and hope Jesus provides. Sometimes we all fall short. That just comes with being human. But when we knowingly celebrate the things God has clearly prohibited, then we need to ask ourselves do we truly love Him?

Often times in stories, we write about flawed characters. These imperfections connect with our readers and show their need for God. But if those characters, who choose Christ, were to never change, to never grow, to continue in their sinful lifestyles over the truth of God’s Word, then our story would be a lie.

The same is true in real life. When we ignore righteousness and dismiss sin with the phrase, “It’s okay because God loves me,” we show a lack of love. Our lives will never reach the potential God provides without a conscious effort to follow His principles. Our purpose on earth is to live out our love for Him.

When we truly love God and understand the mercy, forgiveness and peace He provides, then our daily choices will be a reflection of Jesus.

So today, yes, God loves you. Let’s let our lives love Him back.

While God’s love never fails any of us, maybe we should consider this … “Yes, God loves me, but do I love God?” @shannon_redmon @MaryAFelkins #amwriting #love

Shannon Redmon remembers the first grown up book she checked out from the neighborhood book mobile. A Victoria Holt novel with romance, intrigue, dashing gentlemen and ballroom parties captivated her attention. For her mother, the silence must have been a pleasant break from non-stop teenage chatter, but for Shannon, those stories whipped up a desire and passion for writing.
There’s nothing better than the power of a captivating novel, a moving song or zeal for a performance that punches souls with awe. A rainbow displayed after a horrific storm or expansive views on a mountaintop bring nuggets of joy into our lives. Shannon hopes her stories immerse readers into that same kind of amazement, encouraging faith, hope and love, guiding our hearts to the One who created us all.

Shannon’s writing has been published in Spark magazine, Splickety magazine, the Lightning Blog, The Horse of My Dreams compilation book, and the Seriously Write blog. Her stories have been selected as a semi-finalist and finalist of the ACFW Genesis Contest and won first place in the Foundation’s Awards. She is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. The StoryMoore Blog is named in memory of her father, Donald Eugene Moore.

Connect with Shannon:
The StoryMoore Blog
Twitter: @shannon_redmon
Check out Shannon’s story in a compilation with other authors published by Revell.
The Horse of My Dreams

Monday, February 17, 2020

What is God's Best for Me? by Patty Nicholas-Boyte

Philippians 4:8 (NASB) 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I know, I’m being dramatic, but this is true in my life.

It was the best of times. I am a newlywed, I have a great job in a wonderful Christian organization, and I have family and friends who love and encourage me.

It was the worst of times. Even though I have had several of my devotions published in compilation books, and articles and blog posts have received recognition and publishing cred, what I really want still has not happened. Friends and writing peers are all receiving contracts for their books . . . But not me.

!Friends and writing peers are all receiving contracts for their books . . . But not me.

Have you been in the same situation? Do you feel lost, or like you are on an island, all alone in your writing journey? I know I've been there many times.

I’ve studied the passage in Philippians last year, and I recently came across my notes. What I found true just a few months ago, is still true today. God’s call to write was crystal clear to me back when I first heard it, and the call has never changed.

If I dwell on what God has for me, I know it will be His very best for my life. As hard as it is to not compare myself with my peers, the reminder to dwell on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, good repute, excellence, praise worthy is where I need to focus.

What is God’s best for us? Is it a book contract, is it a new request to speak, or is it a time of quiet with the savior as He prepares us for the next thing? Only He knows, but if we remain in Him, and dwell on His good things and His goodness, we will be blessed when the desires of our heart come to fruition.

Multi award winning writer, Patty Nicholas-Boyte lives with her Husband Brian in the mountains of North Carolina. She is a busy event planner for the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove, and is a member of the Blue Ridge Writers Group. She is a mother of two grown daughters and grandmother of three. She writes Bible studies and devotionals as well as contemporary romance. 
She is a regular contributor to the Cove Blog.
Devotions are published in compilations by Lighthouse Bible Studies.

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Best Love Note Ever! by Dawn Kinzer

Photo of a book with a heart and rose

The Best Love Note Ever!

It’s Valentine’s Day, so it’s the perfect time to talk about love, right?

Movie poster for Valentine's DayMy favorite Valentine’s Day movie is called just that—Valentine’s Day. It came out in 2010 with a large cast of well-known actors, and it didn’t focus on only one type of love. Scenarios included first dates, longtime commitments, young crushes, connections to old flames, and parent-child love. There were so many ways viewers could relate to what the characters were experiencing. I appreciated that!

I believe most people yearn to be seen and loved for who they are. We long for intimacy—the kind that comes with a special kind of closeness, devotion, and selflessness, whether it involves romance or not.

How does this relate to love and writing, regardless of the genre?

With our computers—or our notepads—we become conduits through which the Holy Spirit can share God’s devotion and faithfulness via our novels, memoirs, children’s books, blog posts, etc. In so many ways, our words are love notes from God written through us. Using our stories, we have opportunities to reveal God’s unconditional love and acceptance—his grace and forgiveness.

Just like self-help books or Bible studies, fiction can teach and impact lives. Story-telling can point to God. Our characters’ experiences can encourage readers to begin a relationship with him—or desire a better one.

How do we accomplish that? We write about the real stuff and meet readers where they are—in the trenches. That requires vulnerability and a willingness to write pieces that include not only love, romance, fulfilled dreams, and other warm fuzzies—but also the tough stuff so many of us experience. Heartbreak. Divorce. Abuse. Broken relationships. Fears. Rejection. Chronic illness. Gossip. Slander. Financial crisis. The list goes on …

Our heavenly Father wrote the best love note ever when he gave us the Bible, and that message couldn’t be more clear.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. ~ John 3:16

Dear friends, when you feel discouraged about your writing life, don’t give up. You have important work to do! Please … go write those love notes! We have a world starving to read them!

Our words are love notes from God written through us. #SeriouslyWrite #encouragementforwriters
With our computers—or our notepads—we become conduits through which the Holy Spirit can share God’s devotion and faithfulness. #SeriouslyWrite #encouragementforwriters

By All Appearances
By All Appearances

Liana Tate, a special events planner grew up in a high-profile family. No matter what she does, Liana feels she never measures up.

Bryan Langley, a talented musician, was close to signing a recording contract when a barn fire left part of his face severely burned. He survived, but his career did not.

When Liana’s father hires Bryan as a caretaker on the family estate outside of Seattle, Liana’s and Bryan’s lives become entangled. He risks public humiliation for Liana’s success, and she encourages him to use his musical gifts, despite his reluctance. Thrown together, will they achieve their elusive dreams? And will the two find the love and acceptance they yearn for, or will their actions only drive each other away?

Dawn Kinzer
Dawn Kinzer is a freelance editor, and her own work has been published in various devotionals and magazines. She co-hosts and writes for Seriously Write. Sarah’s Smile is the first book in her historical romance series The Daughters of Riverton, Hope’s Design is the second, and Rebecca’s Song completes the trilogy. Her contemporary romance, By All Appearances, is set in the Seattle area where she resides.

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 books by visiting these online sites: Author Website, Faithfully Write Editing, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Amazon Author Page, BookBub, and Goodreads.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Goldilocks Syndrome By Patti Jo Moore

Once upon a time there was a writer. She loved to write, and happily enjoyed exploring life and new adventures with her fictional characters and settings.

When the writer decided to submit her writing, something happened to her. She was filled with doubts. What had once been an exhilarating (at times) writing experience, now became drudgery. She questioned herself as she finished each scene of a story. Had she included enough action in her stories, or were they dull? Was her story too brief, or could she have added more chapters? Had she put in too much description, often reading like “flowery prose” or did she need more description in her scenes, to make them come alive for readers?

These questions bounced around in the writer’s head, zapping all the previous enjoyment out of her writing experience. She began thinking of the well-loved story about a little girl named Goldilocks, who took a lovely walk one day and ended up in the home of a bear family. If you’re familiar with the story, you know that Goldi tried out the family’s chairs, beds, and even their breakfast they’d left cooling on the table while they enjoyed a walk that morning. Our heroine wasn’t satisfied with the original items she tried in the bears’ home. The chairs were either too big or too little, until she sat in one that was just right. The beds were too hard or too soft, until one was just right. The porridge was either too hot or too cold, until one bowl was just right.

As writers, we can easily slip into the Goldilocks Syndrome, trying and trying to get our stories “just right” but in the process never being satisfied, feeling frustrated, and never releasing them. We’ve all heard the advice that at some point, we must let our stories go. Yes, easier said than done. But we don’t want to reach the point where our writing is a headache-inducing chore and we dread our writing time each day. Sure, it’s hard work. Very hard at times. Yet we can still find joy in our writing, and pray that our writing brings joy into our readers’ lives.

If you’ve ever held onto a story for a long, long time, you may have experienced well-meaning family and friends, their surprised faces not unlike the bear family when they discovered Goldilocks asleep in Mama Bear’s bed. They may say something similar to: “You still haven’t finished that story? When will it be ready?” So after we’ve written and rewritten, polished and made our stories the very best they can be, we do need to release them and move on. There are more adventures just waiting to be written, and many happy hours of writing ahead.

Thank you for bearing with me for this post. 😉 Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have a bowl of porridge—I mean oatmeal—as I happily contemplate ideas for future stories. 😊

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established. Proverbs 16:3

Sadie's Dream

In a coastal Georgia town in 1900, a young woman prepares to serve as a missionary in Africa.

After being jilted the previous year, she's certain she's meant to remain single.

When she meets a handsome businessman from Savannah, she begins struggling with doubts.

Over time she learns that the Lord's plans are best, and dreams really can come true.

Patti Jo Moore is a retired kindergarten teacher and lifelong Georgia girl. She loves Jesus, her family, cats, and coffee, and is blessed to be published with Forget-Me-Not Romances. When she’s not spending time with her family (including her sweet grandbaby) or writing her “Sweet, Southern Stories” Patti Jo can be found feeding cats—her own six and local strays.

She loves connecting with readers and other writers, and can be found on Facebook at Author Patti Jo Moore or her personal blog at