Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Beginning

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up;
do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.”
(Isaiah 43: 18-19 NIV)

We soon begin a new year. When the clock strikes midnight, people will cheer and celebrate not only the calendar switching to 2010, but a new start. A chance to make right what may have gone wrong. They’ll make promises and resolutions. Many will cling to hope that the new year will be better than the former one.

But the day or year doesn’t gift us with a new beginning. God does. He created a need in us for a fresh start, and provides one every day.

He wants us to forget our failings in the past and focus on what He’s doing now in our lives. And our faith provides a way for us to trust in what He's planned ahead for us.

What does this mean for us as writers?

It means that if we didn’t complete our manuscript by our personal deadline, we get to choose another one and move ahead.

If we received a rejection in the mail yesterday, we don’t give up.

If our lives have gotten out of balance with spending too much time on writing and not enough time with God or family, we get another chance to get our priorities straight.

If we’ve become discouraged in regards to writing, we seek His will for our work. If we’re convinced this is our calling, we pick ourselves up and press forward with renewed energy and faith.

A new beginning. What a gift!

Not only on January 1, but every day.

And that’s exciting!


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

ACFW Fiction Finder
Finding Christian fiction the easy way
ACFW launches new free online resource to search for titles

PALM BAY, Fla. — With over 500,000 books published each year, it is harder than ever to find a new book that’s just right. A simple Amazon search in the Christian literature and fiction category yields more than 17,000 results. Consumers wading through the exhaustive, seemingly endless list of choices now have a more manageable resource to help them purchase their next book.

American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), the nation’s leading Christian fiction writers’ organization, is launching, a new free resource for retailers, readers, media and other Christian fiction fans to search for authors and books. The search engine allows users to sort by author, title, genre, topic, publication date, and target audience.

Cynthia Ruchti, president of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), believes this trusted, easy-to-use resource is a significant development in the search for Christian fiction authors and new titles.

”The idea rose from a roundtable discussion between the ACFW leadership team and Christian booksellers looking for a better way to connect their customers with great Christian fiction,” says Ruchti. “ACFW responded by rolling up our sleeves and creating a comprehensive database to serve readers, booksellers, publishers, authors, book club coordinators, librarians and others on the hunt for information and inspiration.”

The site also allows readers to learn about the nature of the content of each book. Each title is rated for action, conflict, humor, mystery, romance, spirituality and suspense, in addition to more sensitive issues like language, sensuality and violence. Users can also post reviews to the site and learn more about soon-to-be-released titles.

The database is the first of its kind and is not limited to books written by ACFW members. The organization is also working with publishers to ensure Christian novels by other authors are incorporated as well.

ACFW’s presence as the voice of Christian fiction and its industry prowess has long been recognized, and its authors are a mainstay on bestseller lists. is the organization’s latest effort to make finding the best in Christian fiction as easy as possible for fans around the world.

Quick facts about
* Book information pages include facts about the publisher, main themes, setting and the author’s other titles.
* A special “similar books” section offers other titles the user may be interested in reading.
* Users can create an account with their preferences, making it easier to find new favorites.

With nearly 2,000 members and 19 chapters in 14 states nationwide, ACFW seeks to promote Christian Fiction through developing the skills of its authors, educating them in the market, and serving as an advocate in the industry. Founded in 2000 under the banner of American Christian Romance writers, in 2004 the organization was renamed American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) to reflect its dedication to Christian fiction writers of all genres.

ACFW is headquartered in Palm Bay, Florida. Their advisory and operating boards work to give writers the tools they need to develop their craft, grow ACFW’s extensive publishing knowledge and secure relationships with industry professionals. To learn more about ACFW and their authors, please visit

For more information, or to set-up an interview with
an ACFW representative, please contact
Merritt Talbott at (512) 478-2028, ext. 226

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Author's Character Series - Ego-Feeders

Net's Notation Tuesdays
The Author's Character Series

Ego Feeders!

Can I be super honest with you, our dear readers? There’s a reason I’ve had to wait this long before more publication. God’s been working on my character.

This writing thing isn’t all about me. So, isn't it ironic how God uses the journey to refine me?!

I get a charge out of writing. I feel affirmed just in the act of penning novels because it’s so much fun for me to write that first draft. (Some of my writer friends HATE the first draft. To them, editing is best. What planet are they from? ;-} )

I get kudos from writing. My crit buddies always find stuff I could fix in my writing—as it should be. But they also tell me what’s working, and that’s fun! My husband likes my work (though he’ll tell me where it needs help too). And my sisters enjoy reading my works in progress, too.

I get status from writing. Uh-oh, an ego-feeder has surfaced. Like Lock Ness Monster this kind of benefit surfaces mysteriously, bearing shadows. Watch out, chasing it can take us on an unwanted path. If writing becomes the part of my life where most of my affirmation comes from, I might obsess. And then I may even let successes go to my head. Any character in your Christian novel whose ego outweighs his humility is not a sympathetic character, right? Guess what? Same thing applies to your character as the author.

So, be honest with yourself.

Are there ego-feeders in your writing experience? If so, how do you head off their potentially self-focused consequence? (i.e. how do you avoid pride?)

Are there ways you are looking to writing to provide the affirmation God wants to give you? (Perhaps He gives you affirmation through writing. What I’m talking about is idolatry—putting writing above God. If God affirms you as you serve, no worries. That’s His fatherly heart showing.)

Is writing more about you than it is about ministering to others?

Is writing about building your name, your platform, your renown more than it’s about building God’s?

Let’s unite against the ego-feeders and beat them back. God first! Serving God takes precedence over our own desires for fame or fortune. Serving our reader takes precedence over serving ourselves.

This season, as we approach the New Year, I’m going to prayerfully allow God to point out ego-feeders in my life so I can cooperate with Him as He works on this author’s character.

Monday, December 28, 2009

First Things First: Part II by Patti Lacy

This Manuscript Monday, we're pleased to welcome back Patti Lacy as she continues her series.

Love at First Sight—
A Captivating Idea Becomes Your Next WIP
by Patti Lacy

A woman carrying a fringed shawl and a notebook approaches my book-signing table. I smile, knowing who stands before me. A writer-in-progress.

“Hi.” We shake hands. “So you’ve written two books?”


“That’s what I want to do.”

I know.

“So…how do you get started?”

I bite back, “Do you have all day?” and schedule coffee. You can’t explain love at first sight in two minutes.

We meet at Coffee Hound in Normal. Latte steam curls into the air. Gorgeous!

“How do you get started?” she repeats before I take my first sip.

You are hooked, aren’t you?

How to start? Images, quotes, predicaments, grab me and won’t let go. I’d startle awake at 2:00 a.m. to see Mary, a barefoot child wearing a torn shift. “The little eejit’s got to go!” echoes off the walls of a dilapidated County Clare cottage. Tea sloshes in cracked cups.

Mary’s first memory, being given away.

That sad freckle face haunted me when Celtic music played. When I graded papers. When I watched a sitcom.

I fell in love with memories’ coloring life and God’s Romans 8:28 promise of working for good in ALL things. Even a five-year-old being “sold.”

I HAD to write Mary’s story: An Irishwoman’s Tale.

“But I’m a __________ (housewife, teacher, accountant). Where on earth can I find these stories?”

Where on earth?

The newspaper. (My Name is Sheba.)

Your past. We all have incidents ready to blossom into a compelling read. A mother with Alzheimer’s. A dead child. A miraculous cure.

Flip through albums. Storytell at reunions.

“One little story can’t possibly be enough.”

You may be right.

When I fall in love, the first puzzle piece is input in a computer file. Yeah, it’s a border piece! I pray and wait for interlocking pieces. A picture begins to emerge . . .

In What the Bayou Saw, a woman shared her story of separation from a neighbor because of segregation and a chain link fence. I imagined . . . two hands desperate to reach through steel gaps and a prejudiced society. But I needed more characters. Conflict. What’s a writer to do?

Time-travel to my Louisiana upbringing via old annuals and locked-away memories. More puzzle pieces emerged. Two former students grew the cast list. Pieces locked into place. A plot materialized, on my mind’s card table!

“But aren’t you messing with nonfiction? Real people’s lives?”

“There’s nothing new under the sun,” said Ecclesiastical Solomon. Authorities concur. Basic plots resonate in works penned and to be penned. We add passion and twists to intensify our work.

Mix and match stories to personalize your love at first sight. Nurture it until it stands proud on library and bookstore shelves!

You’ve fallen hard. What next?

Plot your usual way (SOP or outlining.) Develop characters. Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel book/workbook will help, as will Ingermanson’s snowflake method (,

Fall in love, then blossom that love into a lifelong affair, with your stories AND the writing process!

Patti Lacy thanks her parents for planting the love of stories in her heart and for laying a foundation for a career in teaching. At age 50, she entered the world of writing and has published two novels, An Irishwoman’s Tale and What the Bayou Saw. Patti and her husband live in Normal, Illinois and love to take long walks with their dog named Laura.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Part Five: Staying Grounded as Your Career Soars by Cheryl Wyatt


Please welcome back our friend Cheryl Wyatt as she returns with the final installment of her Staying Grounded While Your Career Soars. We've enjoyed hosting her and appreciate her wisdom.

Staying Grounded as Your Career Soars: Part Five
by Chery Wyatt

Day 5 - Giving

Wow. When I found out this post was going to go up on Christmas Day, I felt very inadequate to post it. Especially when Annette pointed out how neat it was that my final post in this series was on giving and that it fell on Christmas Day.

No gift is more valuable than the one wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger. No gift maybe except the fact that that “gift” grew up despite the satanic attacks on his life and still loved us enough to go to the cross. And with no guarantee we’d ever love Him back.

This post is supposed to be writing related.

But frankly, I don’t know what to say other than every good and perfect gift is from Him. We have nothing, no gift or talent or imaginative ability except what comes from Him.

It boggles my mind that He doesn’t take the gifts away from people who don’t serve Him.

I think of beautiful voices who don’t sing to or for Him but who should because He planted that voice within them when He knit them together in their mother’s wombs. I wonder if He still loves to listen to them sing? Does it hurt Him?

I really wonder.

What about writers so talented yet their words mock Him? I’m not pointing fingers or judging anyone. I just wonder what their words would be like, the impact they’d have if their words were for Him?

Do you ever wonder?

I’m so thankful for the gift of writing. I know it comes from Him.

Even the desire to use my words as worship, poured out as perfume. Many times written in brokenness of things He’s allowed into my life. Just like He allowed the men to mock the woman who shattered her bottle and wasted it all over his feet.

Yet her gift meant more to Jesus than any other that day.

You are a sweet fragrance to God. I pray that today you will determine to write as worship. That you would lose concern over reviews, bad numbers, no contract, rejection, etc. And just be secure in the fact that your words mean something profound to Him. Let that be enough. Let that be your gift to Him today.

Your readership is a gift for which I’m humbly thankful.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and my prayer is that your writing will be a gift to others and especially to the One who placed the dream within you.

Happy Birthday, Jesus. This one’s for you.

Cheryl Wyatt

Born Valentine’s Day on a naval base, Cheryl Wyatt writes military romance. Her Steeple Hill debuts earned RT Top Picks plus #1 and #4 on eHarlequin's Top 10 Most-Blogged-About-Books, lists including NYT Bestsellers.

Her latest book, A Soldier's Devotion, releases January 1, 2010.

U.S. Air Force pararescue jumper Vince Reardon was headed to a lifesaving mission-until pretty lawyer Valentina Russo crashed into him, sidelining him for two weeks. Ever since his brother was wrongly convicted, Vince has little respect for lawyers, but Valentina soon earns his respect.and his heart.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tidings of Great Joy!

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

“Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring
you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there

is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior,

who is Christ the Lord.’”
(Luke 7:10-11 NKJV)

What beautiful, powerful words . . .

I’ve heard the story of baby Jesus – the birth in a stable, the cattle lowing, the shepherds, and the wise men since I was not much bigger than a babe myself.

But as I’ve reread the Christmas story over the past few days, it’s touched and reminded me . . .

To not be afraid.
The shepherds were a little freaked out when the angels appeared. We would be too if they showed up one night out of nowhere in our backyard. The shepherds were told to not be afraid of the angel’s presence, but perhaps today we can also view it with another perspective. We don’t need to fear what life throws our way – nor do we need to fear death.

Great joy surrounds Jesus’ birth.
Christmas should be a time of celebration and sharing the good news with others.

"For there is born to you . . ."

The good news is for YOU and ME.

But not only us and a few other chosen people. It's for everyone. The person who sits behind you every Sunday in church hasn't been singled out. Nor the coworker who brings you Christmas cookies every year. Or the neighbor boy who mows your lawn and shovels snow off your sidewalk.

“. . . which will be to all people.”

That includes people who are homeless, in prison, dealing with addictions, and choosing alternative lifestyles.

It also includes those who are mean, spiteful, selfish, arrogant, and rude.

We, as Christian writers, have an important calling to share God’s love through written word.

Share the good news – the tidings of great joy – that Christ the Savior is born!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Live Author Chats Can Be Fun by Nora St.Laurent

Nora St.Laurent is all about book clubs. As writers, there may be opportunities to connect with readers through this avenue. Today, on this Writer's Journey Wednesday, she shares one of her book club experiences. Enjoy her story!

Live Author Chats Can Be Fun


I rush to my computer go to my e-mail box and look for an email titled “Live author book chat tonight – come join us!” I can't find it. I can hardly breathe. I yell, "Fred, I need your help! I can't find the web address to the book club meeting. I only have five minutes to get there." I can't believe I’m lost in cyber space.

My husband finds the way - my hands are shaking as I sign in and type 'hi' to the author and a couple of others already there. Ten minutes later several people join in all at once and the greetings go around. The author types, “Nora, Are we ready to start?"

"Yes,” I type back. "Remember everyone, if you have a question, type? And type! when you have a comment. Wait to be called on. Go Ahead!"

I never anticipated what happened next.

The screen filled up with '?s' with full questions attached, and '!s' with full comments included. The author struggled to keep up with the rapid fire questions and comments.

Words filled my computer screen so fast it made my eyes cross. The beeps signaling a comment sound like an alarm! What to do? No one waited their turn.

I’m over my head; I have no idea how to get hold of this crowd. This is very different from a live, in-person author chat. Face-to-face, I could stare at someone or clap my hands to get their attention. What to do in cyber space?

This is like riding on top of an Ostrich. I can’t hold on, I’m about to fall off and be trampled. My neck tightens and I find it hard to breathe.

In the midst of my panic an instant message appears. "Nora, hang in there. I used to help run these meetings. These ladies know the author and are having a blast. Better to have lots of conversation then none at all. You're doing fine!"

Whew! Good news. I type back, "THANKS SO MUCH for your note. I appreciate your calming words. Now I can enjoy this."

I take a deep cleansing breathe and start chuckling at all the grins, LOL's, and smiley faces I see. Something else catches my eye.

"You pet a camel?”

Next they talk of pirates and Jack Sparrow. I must have missed something somewhere because the book I read was about a woman facing hardships on the western frontier. See how things can go when you lose control of the group? This can happen at a live, in-person author chat as well - trust me I know.

Don’t hesitate to join a live chat. You can learn so much about your book. I’m the ACFW Book Club Coordinator and would love for you to submit your book for us to vote on. We promote ACFW members’ books. We have live author chats like the one I described. Check us out. Book Clubs are so much fun.

Nora St.Laurent runs two book clubs near the Atlanta area and this year became ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Book Club Coordinator. She currently writes a Book Club Column for Christian Fiction On –Line Magazine. You can read her reviews and author interviews on her Finding Hope Through Fiction blog located at Nora also runs The Book Club Network on Facebook

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Author's Character Series - Jesus' Character

Net's Notation Tuesdays
The Author's Character Series
Jesus' Character

It’s Christmas week. What a great time to focus on Jesus and His character.

As we work our way through this new series on the author’s character, let’s zero in our example: Jesus, the ultimate Author. As God works on our character, He invites us to study His.

looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2, NKJV)

Jesus is the author of your life. He knows the length of your days. Your life is a book He’s penning. (see Psalm 139:16)

And He is perfect. He does all things well, even the writing of Your life. He knows the best timing for everything to take place. He calls us to aim for perfection in our character, in our lives.

He is humble. He inspired the entirety of Scripture (He is the Word, spoken of God), yet do you ever see a prideful boast come from His mouth?

He is patient. He is waiting what feels like forever for His bride, but can you make out even a whispered complaint?

He trusts God. He went to the cross in full trust of God’s perfect plan.

He is a servant. He washed His disciples feet, the act of a slave, setting an example of His people serving others with their lives. He didn’t come to be served, though He is the King of kings, He came to serve others.

He is self-sacrificing. He left glory to come to earth and suffer on our behalf so we could have life more abundantly and an eternity with Him in glory.

He ministers to others. He put others above Himself while He lived on earth and even now He lives to make intercession for us.

He is joyful. God has anointed Him with joy above His fellows because He loves righteousness. (see Psalm 45 and Hebrews 1)

As you read that short list of some of the attributes of Christ’s character, do you see any areas where you could stand to grow? I do.

God is at work conforming us to the image of Christ. Our responsibility as God crafts our character is to cooperate. Respond whenever He shows you things about yourself that need work. Don’t recoil or immediately feel ashamed. He’s not showing us areas where we need work in order to shame us. He’s showing us because seeing the area that needs work is the first step to getting free.

Rest in Him. He’s working on the author’s character.

Merry Christmas, dear readers. May this Christmas season draw you nearer to His heart.


Monday, December 21, 2009

"First Things First: Part I" by Patti Lacy

For the next three weeks, guest author Patti Lacy will share some advice for writers here on Manuscript Mondays. Please welcome my friend as she shares some first things first.

First Things First: Part I
Who’s Your Audience? What’s Your Message?
by Patti Lacy

My mama always told me to put first things first. I avoided boutique racks of prom dresses until I had a date. Muted Nike “Just Do It” commercials until Doc okayed an exercise program. A “first” in penning the next great American novel is to consider your target audience, then determine what they’d like to hear.

As an author writing for the Audience of One, the idea of skewing stories for a target audience coats my mouth with a slimy taste. There’s several ways I’ve determined to pour my passion onto paper yet still find readers besides my mother, husband, and kids.

Do research on who’s reading what. According to an AP poll conducted among avid readers, "the typical woman reads nine books in a year compared with only five for men. Women read more than men in all categories except history and biography." "We see it every time in our store," says Carla Cohen, owner of Politics & Prose bookstore in D.C. "Women head straight for the fiction section and men head for nonfiction."

Okay, I’m a woman whose passion is to pen secrets women keep and why they keep them, so this isn’t too hard. But a male author or a woman whose story involves a hero can interest a target audience of women by heaping personality into female characters, honing in on women’s issues, and including current events pertinent to the plot.

Include social, economic, and cultural issues that involve your target group. So what interests women these days? Stretching the household budget like those old panty hose in your bottom drawer. Characters—and plots—filled with hope for troubling times. You can read the headlines, the bylines, or just ask employees where the customers are bee-lining when they run through the bookstore doors.

Genre jump—it broadens your mind AND your target group. Have you checked out bookstore end-caps lately? They’re sagging with romance and suspense novels. Plant a sizzling, mysterious love interest in your story. Not only will those elements enrich your plot, you will reach more readers. Touch more hearts.

Consider these elements as you put first things first. But don’t forget the One who first loved you and placed His pen in your hand. Put God first in your writing career. After all, He was your first reader . . . and He will be your last reader as well.

Stay tuned for Part II, telling your readers what they want to hear.

Patti Lacy thanks her parents for planting the love of stories in her heart and for laying a foundation for a career in teaching. At age 50, she entered the world of writing and has published two novels, An Irishwoman’s Tale and What the Bayou Saw. Patti and her husband live in Normal, Illinois and love to take long walks with their dog named Laura.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Part Four: Staying Grounded While Your Career Soars by Cheryl Wyatt

It's Fortifying Friday, and Cheryl Wyatt has returned with her inspirational series on staying grounded as a writer. Please welcome her back as she shares more wisdom with us.

Staying Grounded as Your Career Soars
by Cheryl Wyatt

Day 4 -- Growing/Mentoring

At first I was going to do two separate posts on growing and mentoring. But then it occurred to me that they should go hand in hand.

I will never forget the day that bestselling author Margaret Daley turned to me at a conference and said, “You need to be mentoring.”

I don’t think I closed my mouth for five solid minutes. After all, I’d only been writing for a few years. I certainly didn’t feel qualified, and I wasn’t even published. But in that moment, it was like God was directing me through her. I had actually been longing to get to a place in my writing craft that I could help others. I love mentoring. Love helping others go forward.

I had an image in my mind then of a long line of people, all holding hands. For each person in the middle, there was someone a step ahead of them and someone else a step behind them.

The person in front of the person in the middle tugged the middle person forward and the middle person in turn reached back and tugged the person a few steps behind them forward.

And suddenly I got it.

We don’t have to be perfect in order to help.

You probably aren’t the most experienced writer out there. But you probably also aren’t the least experienced either. Publication has nothing to do with it. I know writers who are farther advanced than me in their craft yet they’re not yet published.

You’re the person in the middle but that’s good news. Reach back and take the hand of the person who is one or two or a few steps behind you in this road. Teach them what you’ve learned along the way.

The more you grow the more you will be able to mentor others.

Yes, it’s true that when novelists help less-experienced novelists that they’re actually training their future competition.

But they delight in it anyway because they remember those who mentored them.

You can mentor people many different ways. Even if it’s once a year doing paid critiques at the ACFW conference, then donating the money you make back into the conference scholarship fund so someone else has a chance to come deepen their craft and grow to be a mentor to others.

Thank you to all authors who encouraged and mentored me along my journey. All the authors who still do.

If you are in need of mentorship, ask God to send someone. Respect their time and remember to thank them because mentorship is very time-consuming.

But I’m convinced that when we help others, God also helps us. Don’t forget to give back to the writing community as you’ve been helped. No one gets there alone. We're not meant to. :-)

Blessings on your endeavors!

~Cheryl Wyatt

Born Valentine’s Day on a naval base, Cheryl Wyatt writes military romance. Her Steeple Hill debuts earned RT Top Picks plus #1 and #4 on eHarlequin's Top 10 Most-Blogged-About-Books, lists including NYT Bestsellers. Check out her Web site.

Her latest book, Soldier Daddy, a Steeple Hill Love Inspired title, released in October, 2009.

U.S. Air Force commander Aaron Petrowski leads pararescue teams, yet can't find one nanny for his three-year-old twins? The widowed father is returning to duty, but not without the best care for his beloved boys.

So when Sarah Graham applies, the young woman surprises everyone by passing inspection. Until Aaron discovers Sarah has a secret tied to a tragedy in his past.

He can't keep her in his employ—or in his heart. Until his brave little soldier boys teach him a thing or two about love.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Writing Hope at Christmas

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord.
"Plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future."
(Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

This Bible verse has been my life-line for many years.


What a powerful word.

During Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus and the hope He brought to the world.

Christmas should be a time of merriment and cheer, but for some it’s a time of loneliness, grieving, and struggles with relationships, finances, or health issues.

I’ve experienced two holiday seasons that were difficult for me. The first was my first Christmas as a divorced person and not being able to spend all of the time with my kids. The second came after I remarried and we struggled with the death of my 19 year-old daughter due to a freak a freak car accident. Both times I was blessed with wonderful friends who surrounded me with love and support. They reminded me there was hope.

Perhaps someone you know is struggling. Others may desire to say something encouraging, but they just don’t know what to say, so they say nothing at all . . . But as writers, we have a gift for putting words together. We have something that we can offer to those who need hope.

I send out an annual Christmas letter with pictures to about eighty friends and family members across the country. For some, this is the only time we communicate. This year I wrote about courage, what it takes to follow our dreams and God’s calling in our lives, and relayed how family members have drawn upon that very courage this past year. I wanted to encourage others to pursue their own dreams.

Before sending it out, I asked my husband, “Does this sound preachy?”

He assured me it wasn’t offensive in any way.

As soon as our letters were in the mail, we received one from friends in another state. It relayed that after 30 years, the husband was laid off with no hope of being called back to the job. Devastated, they want God to show them a “plan.”

They included the husband’s current e-mail address, so I sent a note with encouraging words. I received a response the same day, expressing appreciation, saying that he’d read the e-mail out loud to the rest of the family. The Christmas letter that I feared might be taken as “preachy” meant a great deal to him. After reading it, he told his wife it was exactly what he needed at the time.

My vision blurred as I read . . .

Fellow writers . . . we have opportunities all around us to bring words of encouragement and hope this Christmas.

A note, card, or e-mail is something tangible that a person can read over and over when needed.

Use your gift for the written word – and help bring hope this Christmas.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Writing Historicals by Kim Vogel Sawyer

This Writer’s Journey Wednesday, I’m pleased to have guest Kim Vogel Sawyer share tips on writing historicals. Kim is an award winning author and friend. I’ve (Dawn) personally enjoyed her novels, and quite a few have found a home in my bookshelves. Enjoy her recommendations for writing in the historical genre.

Writing Historicals

One of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon is getting lost in a novel. Preferably a historical novel. As a little girl, I enjoyed visiting the past through reading a good story. When I grew up, I became a history teacher. I suppose, then, given my interest in history and reading historical stories it wasn’t much of a stretch that I would try to become an historical author.

One of the most important elements of any story is reality. Even though it’s a fiction story, plot lines that step beyond the bounds of believability can make a writer lost credibility in a reader’s eyes. So getting the facts straight—being historically accurate—is important. And that’s where research comes in to play.

When my fifth grade students researched for reports, I told them they needed to verify their information with three separate sources. As an author, I follow the same rule. Of course, kids loved to research on-line, and so do grown-ups! But just because you find something on a website doesn’t necessarily prove it’s correct—anyone can start a website. So using other sources is essential.

If possible, I like to visit college libraries in the area where my story is being set. They have wonderful reference sources and often have information specific to the area that you won’t find anywhere else. Librarians are a wonderful help if you need hard-to-find information. I have yet to find a resource librarian that wasn’t willing to help me dig for details.

Building a private library is advisable—especially if your stories tend to focus within a specific time period or area. Having your own books lets you mark important passages, fold down corners, or whatever else helps you study. Librarians usually frown if you mark up their books. :o) Since I write predominantly late 1800s-in-Kansas stories, most of my books are committed to Kansas in the 19th century. I write some Mennonite stories, so I also have Mennonite history books. Over the past years, I’ve collected textbooks from 1911 through the 1950s—not only do these books give historical information, they usually have photographs and they’re written in a language that “sounds” like the time period, helping me step into character.

Books are fantastic, but nothing beats a personal visit to get a “feel” for the area. Every area has its own landscape, vegetation, and typical weather patterns. Experiencing these things for yourself can help you understand what your characters lived.

So carefully research. Then share the information—as a natural extension of the story—so the setting comes alive for your readers.

Bestselling, award-winning author Kim Vogel Sawyer is a small-town Kansas girl living out her childhood fantasies of becoming a writer. Kim's stories contain faith lessons her readers can adopt into their personal lives. She and her husband are empty-nesters with three adults daughters and six grandchildren. Learn more at

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Author's Character Series

The Author's Character Series: Part One
Net's Notation Tuesdays

We fiction writers spend a lot of time on characterization, filling in our character charts. I love this creative process. Doesn’t it seem like you’re getting a taste of God’s role as Creator while you invent someone’s personality and history for your story?

But, while we’re working away on our character’s characterization, God is working on the author’s character—yours and mine.

Here’s what I mean—the process of writing, of living a writer’s life, is not uncomplicated. Inspiration, rejection, creation, disappointment, elation, and patience all fill our days. You meet an agent or editor at a conference. Though you have butterflies, you pitch your story successfully, and the editor or agent responds with excitement. They want to see your proposal. Some may even ask to see the full manuscript. Chill bumps chase you home from the conference as you prepare the perfect proposal and submit it to the agency or house. Then you wait.

And wait. And wait longer.

The excitement you felt at the conference wanes with the waiting. Hope dissipates with the delay. You try to focus on other projects, assuring yourself the wait is normal (because it is). But every day you check email multiples times. You might even go back and review your proposal and cover letter to ensure everything was included correctly. (I don’t always have the courage for this because if I find blaring mistakes I can’t change them. Then I have a new concern to obsess about. ;-) )

I’m going to leave you hanging here in the waiting process because I have good news: while you wait, God is working. He's wooing you to Himself, beckoning you to pray about your writing career, sure, but He also simply wants to spend time alone with you. He is refining your character.

Maybe, instead of waiting, you’re in the midst of a mad dash to the finish line—a deadline for a contracted manuscript. Same thing applies. I have a friend who was thrust into a writing deadline which tipped her world upside down. Raising a young family, homeschooling, and writing two full chapters a day will do that to you. (i.e. 5,000 words) She said the process really refined her because she had to totally depend on the Lord while battling migraines and typing her first draft.

God’s working on your character, on my character. From anxiety to quiet trust. From worry to assurance. No matter what happens, God has the situation in His capable hands.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be running a series on the author’s character—yours and mine. In the meantime, know that God wants time alone with you.

Watch for next Tuesday’s post when I focus on the character of Jesus, the ultimate Author.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Creating Good Fiction Proposals by Jeff Gerke, Part 4

This Manuscript Monday Jeff Gerke will wrap up his series on proposals. We've appreciated all his tips (and his fun sense of humor).

Creating Good Fiction Proposals, Part 4*
by Jeff Gerke

Let's focus on a few last items you'll want to include in your proposal.

The Synopsis

Since I've done such a brilliant job of explaining this elsewhere [pauses for applause], I'll just refer you to that article.

One note: I can't stress enough the importance of a good, 1-page synopsis. A synopsis that is too long (more than 2 pages) or poorly done or that does not give away the ending may sink you.
Some agents and acquisitions editors will skip over all your front matter and go straight to the sample chapters. Artistic purists! But if they like what they see there they will inevitably come back and read your synopsis. So it had better be good.

Note that you can begin the synopsis on the bottom of the one pager mentioned last week if you have half a page or so available. Otherwise begin it on its own page.

The Other One Pager

Very often there is about one more page's worth of pertinent information that needs to be conveyed in the proposal.

It could be any one or more of a variety of things: a brief (1/4-page) bio of you (recommended), a one-paragraph summary of each of the other books in the proposed series, or some other historical note or personal experience piece that will cause a "buyer" to be more inclined to invest in your "product."

Take a page or two to include that information.

Keeping in mind, of course, the section on What Not To Include.

Last thought: if you're especially good-looking, a photo of yourself on this page would not hurt you. It's hard to find photogenic novelists, let me tell you, and the publicity department will be interested in finding a new one.

The Sample Chapters

Here, more than in any other portion of your proposal, your chances rise or fall.

As I've mentioned, many agents and almost all fiction acquisitions editors are fiction purists. We love to discover great fiction. That's why we'll often skip over everything else and turn to the first pages of your actual writing. If we love it, you're golden. If we don't, you're sunk (er, dross?).

Note that I said you want to include the first 30-40 pages of your novel. Agents and editors need to see that you know how to start a novel well. That tells so much. This is not the time to include chapter 12 because it's really cool and chapter 21 to show that you can write snappy dialogue.

Give us your first 30-40 pages and make sure they're your best writing because they will determine your publishing future.

Notice also that I've said to include the first 30-40 pages. I didn't say include the first three chapters. Why? Because some people write chapters that are 2 stinkin' pages long and others write 65-page chapters. We don't want that little or that much. We want 30-40 (double-spaced) pages.

Go Now, My Child, and Find Your Destiny

Wow, that's a little melodramatic, wouldn't you say?

Anyway, that's all I have to say about how to create fiction proposals that will give your novel its best chance.

Oh, a word about writer's guidelines. If the publisher you're targeting has published writer's guidelines that determine what they want to have included in any proposal sent to them, then by all means do it the way they say even if it violates what I've said here.

But by and large if you include these elements, abide by the formatting rules, and write incredible fiction, you'll have a fighting chance, young padowan. Go now and find your destiny.

Jeff Gerke is a mild-mannered author and book editor living in Colorado Springs. He and his wife have a daughter and a son and in 2009, they adopted a little girl from China. See this site for more. Jeff's first novels appeared in the mid-1990s, followed in the early part of the 21st century by his Operation: Firebrand novels. His nonfiction books were published in 2003 and 2005. In 1999 Jeff came on staff with Multnomah Publishers in Sisters, Oregon, as an editor. Over his career he has been on staff with Multnomah, Strang/Realms, and NavPress. In October 2008 Jeff became the founder of Marcher Lord Press, a small indie publishing company dedicated to producing the finest in Christian science fiction, fantasy, and other wonderfully weird genres.

* This series of articles was taken from Jeff Gerke’s Where The Map Ends Web site. Used by permission.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Part Three: Staying Grounded While Your Career Soars by Cheryl Wyatt

Cheryl Wyatt's series has been so "meaty." I hope you're enjoying it as much as I (Annette) am. Please welcome her back for Part Three of her series this Fortifying Friday.

Staying Grounded as Your Career Soars
by Cheryl Wyatt

Day 3 - Serving

An interesting phenomenon happened to me at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference. I set aside my entire conference one year to assist another member who is differently-abled.

The very next year a medical misdiagnoses put me in a wheelchair for months following a major reconstructive surgery. I am also a donor bone recipient which is part of the reason I can walk today.

Suddenly I went from being able to serve to needing help. Guess what?

I hated it.

It gave me a new level of respect for disabled people as well as the person I’d helped the year prior.

Trust me, it was much easier for me to be the one helping than the one needing help. I squirmed with uncomfortable emotions the entire conference.

Yet I was profoundly thankful too. A friend, Pammer James, without me asking her, set aside her entire conference to push me around in that chair.

I couldn’t bring myself to ask for help. I don’t know if it was self-sufficiency or embarrassment or what. But it was ugly, and God wanted it out of me. I like to be independent. God, in his mercy, sent me this friend and put it on her heart to serve me at the conference instead of having her own agenda.

From that point onward I determined to go to ACFW with a heart to serve and without my own agenda. To seek out the lonely and scared and those too scared or shy to ask for help.

I pray for you as you attend writers’ conferences next year that you will be super sensitive to the needs of others. You have no idea what a blessing you will be to that person who needs help but for whatever reason can’t ask.

You never know when you will be the one needing help. God makes us take turns. LOL! You will be forced to depend on others some day.

Until and after then, go with a heart to serve.

Born Valentine’s Day on a naval base, Cheryl Wyatt writes military romance. Her Steeple Hill debuts earned RT Top Picks plus #1 and #4 on eHarlequin's Top 10 Most-Blogged-About-Books, lists including NYT Bestsellers.

Her latest book, Soldier Daddy, a Steeple Hill Love Inspired title, released in October, 2009.

U.S. Air Force commander Aaron Petrowski leads pararescue teams, yet can't find one nanny for his three-year-old twins? The widowed father is returning to duty, but not without the best care for his beloved boys.

So when Sarah Graham applies, the young woman surprises everyone by passing inspection. Until Aaron discovers Sarah has a secret tied to a tragedy in his past.

He can't keep her in his employ—or in his heart. Until his brave little soldier boys teach him a thing or two about love.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Willing to Be a Servant

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

“But he who is greatest among you
shall be your servant.”
(Matthew 23:11 NKJV)

I look back to when I began the journey down a path that led me to a place where I began to take my writing seriously – and finally to the place where other people took my writing seriously.

In the beginning I knew that I loved the written word and the difference it could make in people’s lives. I knew that I had a certain skill level when it came to expressing myself on paper. But I also discovered there was much to learn about writing for publication. There still is . . .

I’m thankful every day for the writers and mentors I’ve met on this journey. People who have been willing to share not only their knowledge, but their friendship. With their encouragement, help, and insight, I’ve grown as a person and as a writer. Various opportunities have opened up for me because of their willingness to serve.

My guess is that many of you can relate.

And now it’s our responsibility to do the same for others. God lifts us up so that we can help those around us. Think about the well known saying, “What goes around, comes around.” If out of genuine care, we help someone become what Gods wants them to be, God will send who we need to do the same.

Let’s take it a step further.

What can we do outside of our writing lives that will inspire, encourage, or motivate individuals to accomplish their goals?

Be ready and open to helping people with whatever God has called them to do.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me by Tiffany Amber Stockton

Annette and I have known Tiffany Amber Stockton through ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and attending writer’s conferences. Tiff makes her presence known by the humor, warmth, and energy she shares with those around her. It’s exciting to see her hard work pay off, and we’re pleased to have her as a guest on Seriously Write.

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me

1. Read and Write a Lot. If you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader first. Immerse yourself in books, both on the craft and of the craft itself. Find your favorites or your least favorites. Dissect the good and the bad. Find out what works and what doesn’t. Then, find your own voice and go from there.

2. Use the reader’s time in a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
If you can capture a reader’s attention so that he or she will not mind being taken away from duties or the daily demands of life, then you have succeeded in your story.

3. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for. Make it more than one, and the old adage, “the more the merrier” will apply. This character is usually the hero or heroine, but depending on the reader, sometimes it’s the antagonist with redeeming qualities.

4. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
If you don’t identify and establish your goals for each and every character in your story, then your characters are at risk for becoming cardboard, two-dimensional or inconsequential. As every character must have a purpose of some sort, make sure their desires are clearly defined and fulfilled.

5. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal more about a character or advance the plot. This can also be applied to each scene you pen. If you can’t apply this rule to each scene or each sentence, then you might want to remove or revise it.

6. Start as close to the end as possible.
There is nothing that kills a story faster than bogging down the reader in unnecessary details. Know in a general sense how your story will end, and begin in the middle of the action that will get your reader there.

7. Be a Sadist.
Take your characters into the worst possible situation…and make it worse. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them in order that the reader may see what they are made of. Test the mettle of your characters. Put them on the chopping block.

8. Write to please just one person. Don’t try to please everyone, or you’ll fail completely. If your story touches just one life, it’s found its purpose.

9. Give your readers as much information as possible. But don’t dumb them down. Write in such a way that the information you do provide leads them where you want them to go, but also challenges them to fill in the blanks.

10. Find a subject you care about. It’s often said to “write what you love.” This can’t be truer than when writing a novel. If you don’t care about the subject you write, why will your reader?

Tiffany Amber Stockton is an author and freelance web site designer who lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart, and their baby daughter in beautiful Colorado Springs. They also have a vivacious Border Collie mix named Roxie. Amber has sold eight books so far to Barbour Publishing. Other writing credits include five short stories for Romancing the Christian Heart, and contributions to Grit for the Oyster and 101 Ways to Romance Your Marriage. A born-again Christian since the age of seven, her faith in Christ has often sustained her through difficult experiences. She seeks to share that with others through her writing.

Web Designer - Eagle Designs (
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Creative Best Series - Part Nine

Net's Notation Tuesdays
Creative Best Series - Part Nine

Today we're focusing on the last phrase of our verse from Galatians 6:4 from the Message:

Each of you must take responsibility
for doing the creative best
you can with your own life

Writing can consume your life, can’t it? Ideas come in the strangest places. In the shower, for example. Now how practical is this? “That’s just what would fix that scene! Where’s a pen?” Shampoo is running into your eyes. Not exactly the best place to pen a chapter revision. ;-)

The writing life is just that—it’s your life. It’s your focus. Here’s why that’s not all bad:

Writing is a calling. From God. As He was knitting you together in your mother’s womb, He knew what His calling would be for you. I imagine Him looking ahead to the days when you would realize your calling. And the day you’d accept it. The first time you would take pleasure in what He created you for. Do you remember those moments? Cherish them.

But, like other areas of our lives, this can go sideways. Writing can become an obsession. That’s not what God wants. He is our everything.

Writing can offer so much affirmation and acclamation, that we fixate on our books, our next project, the next time a reader might contact us with praises. Careful. It’s going sideways.

Writing can bring us so much joy we forget to draw what we need from the Lord first and write out of that overflow. We turn to the act of writing or editing or blogging in order to fulfill a deep need for communion, accomplishment, success, or affirmation, rather than to God who longs to fill that place inside us.

We don’t want to be selfish and draw only what we need from writing. Rather, we want to get what we need from God and then be His vessel to minister to others with our lives.

Another positive aspect is we can draw inspiration from our lives that will minister to others. Your life's testimony speaks to readers and will help them through their pain or trials. In this way we use our lives to be our creative best.

So, this writing thing is about your life. It is the focus of your life’s calling. It cannot be your top priority—God is. It cannot take first place in your activities, (to the detriment of family, for example). But it must be a high priority. It must be a cause you’ll spend your life on.

Dear Writer, you can spend your hours doing anything you want. How will you spend your days? Be purposeful. Spend your life being your creative best.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Creating Good Fiction Proposals by Jeff Gerke, Part 3

Please welcome back Jeff Gerke as he continues his proposal series this Manuscript Monday.

A Closer Look at What To Include*
by Jeff Gerke

There are guidelines for how to format your proposal so that it looks professional. I've written them up in Tip #2, so please be sure you adhere to them. (see this site for more information on Tip #2)

All right, on to the elements.

The Cover Letter

This is just like a query letter except without the query.

A query letter is basically the proposal on one page. You pitch your idea, summarize your qualifications, and ask for permission to send the proposal to the editor or agent.

For your proposal, you're obviously past that stage (because it's included in the proposal), so you can dispense with the "May I please send you the proposal for...?" bit. Instead, replace it with a "I am pleased to present..." sentence. If you'd like, you can ask for permission to send the full manuscript.

(If you need help on what goes into a good query letter, consult the many books and Web pages on the topic.)

Only one note: In your cover letter you need to mention whether or not you're sending this to more than one agent and/or publishing house at the same time. If you're doing that (and the term for it is simultaneous submissions) you need to be sure to let everyone know.

The One Pager

This is like a tip sheet for sales. It's a one-sheet, a brief, sometimes bulleted sheet with the facts about your novel.

The hook is a little (10-word) grabber or tagline for your novel: "What happens when cloned vampires drink their clones' blood?" or "Jennifer loves Thomas--too bad Thomas died nineteen centuries ago."

The blurb is a short but arresting summary of your story. Here you can give sizzle but no steak. In other words, this is marketing copy designed to further hook your reader while giving a little more detail about your story.

"When molecular biologist Jennifer Reeves discovers a lost source of prehistoric DNA..."

The Title, Genre, Wordcount, and Audience of your novel should be self-explanatory. As for genre, read Tips 16-18. Understand that certain genres and topics are trigger words that will automatically raise or lower an agent's or editor's interest in your project. It's just reality.
As for your book's length, be sure you speak in wordcount. Pagecount is all but meaningless as font size, margin size, spacing, and a host of other variables make quantification impossible. But wordcount tells no lies.

Note that you can include several of these in one paragraph. You could say, for instance:

Death by McNugget is a supernatural thriller for preteens set in the dark crevices of a Cleveland mall's food court. The manuscript is complete at 90,000 words. Available upon request.

The Series Description is where you explain that this novel is the first in a proposed 4-book series that follows Jennifer Reeves as she uncovers further prehistoric mysteries. Just mention the series here. You'll have an opportunity later to summarize other books in the series. Your previously published books should also be self-explanatory. You either have them or you don't. If you don't, just leave this portion out of the proposal.

If you do have other books, the editor needs to know their titles, who published them, when they released, and (most importantly) how well they sold. Give exact sales data.

One note: if the previous books were published by another publisher, the acquisitions editor is going to wonder why you aren't being published again by that publisher. You might want to go ahead and provide that information here--unless it makes you look bad, in which case a don't-ask-don't-tell rule applies.

Jeff Gerke is a mild-mannered author and book editor living in Colorado Springs. He and his wife have a daughter and a son and in 2009, they adopted a little girl from China. See this site for more. Jeff's first novels appeared in the mid-1990s, followed in the early part of the 21st century by his Operation: Firebrand novels. His nonfiction books were published in 2003 and 2005. In 1999 Jeff came on staff with Multnomah Publishers in Sisters, Oregon, as an editor. Over his career he has been on staff with Multnomah, Strang/Realms, and NavPress. In October 2008 Jeff became the founder of Marcher Lord Press, a small indie publishing company dedicated to producing the finest in Christian science fiction, fantasy, and other wonderfully weird genres.

* This series of articles was taken from Jeff Gerke’s Where The Map Ends Web site. Used by permission.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Part Two: Staying Grounded as Your Career Soars by Cheryl Wyatt

Please welcome back Cheryl Wyatt as she continues her series this Fortifying Friday.

Staying Grounded While Your Career Soars
By Cheryl Wyatt

Day 2 - Humility

When my debut sold, the celebratory outpouring of support from family and friends was enormous. I’ll always be thankful for that and remain hopeful for their dreams to come true, too.

I wasn’t prepared for how news that I’d sold a book thrust me from shadows of obscurity as a shy pray-er, into the title of “published author” in people’s minds. I love praying for others. My church, leaders, family, friends, strangers, etc. I have a tremendous love for orphans.

The only reason I asked God to get my writing to the point of making money was because half my heart is in pieces on the other side of the world. Strips of it tore away and clung like Band-aids to the motherless children in South Indian orphanages I visited after the big tsunami. It only takes $5,000 American dollars to build an orphanage for four hundred children. Multitudes are still homeless.

God’s answer to that prayer? “Write as worship.”

Well, okay but I wanted to be published. I wrote for free for years before I finally sold a book. Seven years later I was sitting at my desk when I sensed God ask again, “Will you always write as worship?”

“Yes, Lord. You know I will.” I chuckled because I knew He knew I would and He’d stay my heart to keep that promise.

I’m not kidding when I say THAT moment the phone rang. It was The Call.

That it happened as that answer left my lips was no coincidence. Any time I doubt this calling, God is gracious to remind me.

Every book sold means several hundred orphans have haven. I promised every penny to God for that purpose. No one knew.

So when people began saying things like, “You must be rolling in dough now” and other well-meaning but ridiculous and insensitive things, it honestly broke my heart. It was like all of a sudden no one knew the real me. I knew after soul-searching I hadn’t changed. I begged God to be sure this writing thing hadn’t gone to my head. I felt secure that I was still true to who God made me. I don’t view my writing as above any other gift. They each are important. My writing gives me more people to pray for.

People tend to either think too highly of themselves or too little. I fall in the latter category. I constantly fight negative voices telling me my writing’s not good enough. Guess what? Sometimes it’s not! LOL.

A line to one of my favorite songs says, “All I am is yours.”

I’m not a failure even though I fail. I am His. So are you. Take great comfort in that. Let’s never forget who we are or where we came from, no matter how successful we become. If you write as worship to the living God, you will be less likely to fall prey to pride when success is handed to you.

~ Cheryl Wyatt

Born Valentine’s Day on a naval base, Cheryl Wyatt writes military romance. Her Steeple Hill debuts earned RT Top Picks plus #1 and #4 on eHarlequin's Top 10 Most-Blogged-About-Books, lists including NYT Bestsellers. Check out her Web site.

Her latest book, Soldier Daddy, a Steeple Hill Love Inspired title, released in October, 2009.

U.S. Air Force commander Aaron Petrowski leads pararescue teams, yet can't find one nanny for his three-year-old twins? The widowed father is returning to duty, but not without the best care for his beloved boys.

So when Sarah Graham applies, the young woman surprises everyone by passing inspection. Until Aaron discovers Sarah has a secret tied to a tragedy in his past.

He can't keep her in his employ—or in his heart. Until his brave little soldier boys teach him a thing or two about love.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Few Surprises

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

"Many are the plans in a man's heart,
but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails
." (Proverbs 19:21 NIV)

All writers probably have a dream, vision, or plan of what needs to be accomplished before they can feel successful in their writing careers. The prize may first be a contracted novel. Then it may be a three book contract for a series. For some, it may be an article published in a major magazine.

I have my own dream. But, I’ve also discovered something on this journey. The Lord has a purpose for our writing, which may include a few surprises along the way.

I work for a national telecommunications company. It’s known that I’m a writer, and so through a series of events, I was handed the task of creating a quarterly publication for our department of 90 people.

At first, I thought it a bit daunting. But then – selfishly – I thought how wonderful it would be to have a creative outlet. A breath of fresh air!

I was thinking only about myself. My plan.

Because of time limitations, I requested help. Management and I worked out a way to solicit four other people in the department, with me taking the role as lead editor. I didn’t know what to expect, but God had a plan. He provided a gold mine in the four coworkers who stepped forward.

They've arrived at meetings, excited to offer ideas and suggestions. I’m mentoring one person to someday take over the role of editor. She's struggled with her job and told me this project is the one thing she has. The one thing that helps keep her going.

A young man in his mid-twenties has beamed these past weeks. Desiring to go to art school, the opportunity to design our graphics has been a needed creative outlet for him. He emailed that working on the publication has been a great experience for him.

God had a plan.

I don’t believe my work on this publication was just a way for me to add more credits to my writing resume. I believe the Lord’s purpose also included this small group of people who were feeling just as I was. Desperate to fill the void inside that occurs when we don’t have the opportunity to create.

Sometimes God uses our writing gifts in ways we don’t expect.

Sometimes, God surprises us.

Be open to those surprises . . .

And have a great week.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Marketing Successfully on Amazon by Miralee Ferrell

Here on Wednesday Writer’s Journey, we’ve talked about the necessity for a writer to be involved in marketing his or her work. Today we welcome author Miralee Ferrell as she shares how to utilize Amazon.

Marketing Successfully on Amazon

There are a number of different ways to market your book on Amazon, but today we’ll just look at one. First, let’s review some basic information on Amazon’s ranking system. Books are ranked according to category. There are over 8 million books listed, so yours will fall under the category of all books…then it could be broken down like this: Books, religious, historical, romance, depending on the genre. If your book is ranked at #500,000, that means there are 499,999 books selling better than yours in that particular time period….but it’s also selling better than 7,500,000 other books. Let’s say it’s ranked #20,000 in overall ‘books’. It might be as low as #35 by the time it hits the romance category of historical religious books. Anyone looking at the top 50 selling historical romance (Christian fiction) books will see yours. Not bad, huh?

Obviously, the lower the number, the higher you are on the chart. So, how to move up in the ranking faster? One way is through a high number of good reviews—and not just any reviews, but preferably, ones by prominent Amazon reviewers. Many of these people have a following—readers who consistently watch their reviews and trust them—but it’s not always easy to convince a reviewer to read your book. Here’s a suggestion. It’s time consuming, but can pay off if done properly.

Go through the list of the top 500-1000 reviewers (or more). Many won’t have contact info, so you’ll have to narrow the list to those who do. Then, target the reviewers who might actually read your book. If you write Christian romance, there’s no sense in sending to someone who consistently reviews witchcraft, horror, or other hardcore books. Once you compile your list, prepare a professional, courteous email. Ask the reviewer if they would consider reading your book if you send them a complimentary copy. Offer to sign it, and above all, do not insist that they do a review. Pushy authors will get their letters discarded, or very possibly get a poor review. Here’s a sample letter:

Dear Joe,

I got your contact information from your recent Amazon review of (name a book that’s similar to what you write—it shows the reviewer you have a logical reason for picking them) and thought you might be interested in my inspirational fiction book releasing soon, Love Finds You in Bridal Veil, Oregon. I’d love to send you a copy and if you’re interested, I’d be grateful if you decide to post a review. I’ll send you a brief summary if you’d like, and if you send me your mailing address, I’ll drop a copy in the mail. Of course, there’s no obligation. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Above all, be courteous and don’t assume they’ll jump at the chance to review your book. If they do, be sure to send a thank you note after the review has posted.

Miralee Ferrell lives with Allen, her husband of 37 yrs in Washington state, where she enjoys horseback riding with her daughter, puttering in her flower beds, reading and writing Christian fiction. Miralee is active in her church where she serves on staff ministering to women. She and Allen plan to spend a few months each year on their sailboat.

Web site:

You can find all four of Miralee's books on or Finding Jeena (the sequel to The Other Daughter) releases in April of 2010, and Love Finds You in Bridal Veil, Oregon, releases Feb. 1st.

Amidst a backdrop of thievery and murder in historic Bridal Veil, Oregon, a schoolteacher is torn between the memories of a distant love and the man who could be her future. Margaret Garvey had given her heart to Nathaniel, but he left town four years before. Now she's giving love another chance, but her decision to build a new life with Andrew is shaken when Nathaniel steams back into Bridal Veil on a riverboat to work at the nearby sawmill. When disaster strikes the town and threatens the welfare of its citizens, Margaret will be faced with the most important choice of her life.