Monday, August 31, 2009

Why I Write Allegories by Denise Hunter

Happy Monday everyone! Annette here. Welcome to our first Featured Genre Day. Every now and then we're going to host writers who will share about why they write the genre they write. Gives us an inside look at the many facets of Christian books.

Denise Hunter has been publishing fiction for years. But I didn't read her work until the well-received novel Surrender Bay. I kept hearing great feedback on this book and finally had to see for myself. So glad I did. You can read my review of Surrender Bay here.

Surrender Bay was followed by another allegory in the Nantucket Love Story series, The Convenient Groom. Her new book, Seaside Letters, will release in October.

I've had an interest in the symbolism of allegories for years and have wondered about writing them myself. So, I was curious about why Denise chose to write allegories.

Here's what she said:

I love the way Jesus told stories. His parables made his listeners think for themselves and draw their own conclusions. In his story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus never said, “Listen folks, the father in the story is God, and the Prodigal Son is you.” The son never had a “come to Jesus” moment, he simply returned to his father and was welcomed home with open arms. Jesus required the listeners to draw the connection for a reason. An allegory allows us to see the familiar in a fresh and powerful way, and that’s what I hoped to do with Surrender Bay.

Just for fun, readers, here's the blurb about her upcoming book:

Their letters could lead to lasting love . . . or expose Sabrina's mortifying secret.

Sabrina Kincaid didn't intend to fall for Nantucket native Tucker McCabe, the man she serves coffee to every morning-a man tied deeply to a past she deeply regrets. But she has. And she's fallen hard.

But she's kept this a secret from her handsome customer. And now Tucker wants to hire Sabrina to help locate his friend "Sweetpea"-the mysterious woman he's falling in love with online. Sabrina is not inclined to help, but if Tucker hires someone else, it could spell disaster. Because if someone else sifted through the emails and figured out the truth-then Tucker would discover that the person he's trying to find is . . . her.

Thanks for dropping by, Denise. We wish you the best!

Denise Hunter lives in Indiana with her husband Kevin and their three sons. In 1996, Denise began her first book, a Christian romance novel, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she's been writing ever since. Her books often contain a strong romantic element, and her husband Kevin says he provides all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too!

Friday, August 28, 2009

God Just Waits to Bless Us by Margo Carmichael

It’s Fortifying Friday, and we’re happy Margo Carmichael is visiting as our guest writer. Her passion and love for the Lord can’t be ignored. Enjoy!

God Just Waits to Bless Us

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! (Isaiah 30:18)

And if He called us to write, He’ll bless that, too.

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

I heard a woman speak of a great book on characters. It was out of print, but she had checked it out of the library and it was so good, she kept it and paid for it. (Not recommending that, especially for God’s blessing.) Next day, I shopped at a produce stand that also sold used books. And there was the book. Hardback, for 50c. Later, I did see it advertised in paperback for more. It was God’s timing that really touched me.

At an air show, I remarked to a stranger that I wished my kids and I could sit in the V.I.P. section as I had as a child, the daughter of a Navy pilot, so they could see better. Now this show typically attracts several million people over three days. And of all those people, this woman happened to be the mom of Blue Angel pilot Pat Walsh. He was retiring and it was his last air show. She had passes to the VIP section and gave us one. Amazed, we went in but all the seats were taken. So we easily slipped down front and sat on the tarmac. Elsewhere, the crowd was probably twenty deep, pretty hard to slip through. When the show started, everyone stood. We couldn’t have seen from the seats, either.

But here we were. The kids were thrilled. And since an air show is part of my WIP, it was a great time for me to review the events.

There are many other examples of God’s sweetness in my life. I’m sure we all have them.

I’ve found that one way to really see God’s blessings, presence, power, and answered prayer is obedience. Jesus promises,

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. (John 14:21 NIV)

Well, I’m not the most obedient person in the world. But I’m trying. Sometimes, He must think, Very trying. But like the song says, He’s still working on me. In His goodness, He is blessing me. And He is so much fun.

To read more from Margo, please visit Margo’s Moments.

Margo Carmichael has been a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and/or Romance Writers of America and Sisters in Crime since 1993. She’s writing a woman-in-jeopardy set in New Orleans, Pensacola, and Israel about a bride who sees her husband crash in his training jet. Blaming herself, she delves into the occult. A Jewish believer leads her out again and back to God. She enjoys marriage (not housekeeping), two children and five grandchildren and all their dogs and cats, loves to travel, and has visited all these settings she loves. She has also taught art, Spanish and Bible, and sings in a church choir that’s awesome in spite her.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Is God Interested?

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

He who was seated on the throne said,
"I am making everything new!"
Then he said, "Write this down,
for these words are trustworthy and true."
(Rev. 21:5 NIV)

Have you ever doubted whether God is really invested in your writing?

I mean, after all . . . it’s not like you’re trying to find the cure for AIDS, or save a country from starving. Maybe you just want to have someone read your work and tell you that you’ve made a difference in their life. Just one person. Not a whole country.

I tried a little experiment and plugged in the words “write” and “written” into an online Bible search.

I discovered that in the NIV version of the Bible, the command, the need, or desire to write things down is mentioned 86 times. The word “written” is included 257 times. In the King James version, “write” is mentioned 91 times and the word “written” occurs 291 times.

Now I know and understand that in Biblical times, there wasn’t TV, film, or radio to help relay information. Prior to the technology we have today, the written word was the primary means in keeping records and sharing information.

But God didn’t tell people to travel and just spread His message verbally. Moses wasn’t told to gather the people and just speak the 10 Commandments. God commanded him to write the commandments down. The disciples didn’t just preach to the masses, they wrote letters. We might not have the Bible today if it hadn’t been laid down on parchment.

For those of us who are believers, we know that our names are written in the book of life.

And in the Bible it says of Christ in heaven, “On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” (Rev. 19:16 NIV) Surely no one in heaven would need to have that pointed out!

I think God places great importance on writing.

And because of that, I believe He also wants to encourage and bless our work. He wants us to succeed. He wants to provide opportunities for our writing to benefit His children and His kingdom.

Take heart, writer.

God is very interested in you and your writing.

Have a great week.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Seekers - Blog for Writers

It’s Wednesday and our Writer’s Journey continues as we feature another blog for writers, The Seekers. We're thrilled to have Ruth Logan Herne, one of the Seekers, visit and share pieces of the journey for this group of writers and why Seekerville was created.


The Seekers

Ladies, congrats! A new venture. You go, girls!

Yay, you! This is where it begins. Stepping out, trying new hats, working together. Of course making fun of one another can’t hurt, especially if you embarrass each other in public, a trait the Seekers practice on their children. Since it worked well there, we decided to bring our antics to the Internet.

For the world to see, of course!

Seekerville Where else can you find fifteen competitive women who not only help one another achieve publication thereby becoming even more adversarial, but train others to take their place?

Either these gals are very good or uniformly stupid.

Since 11/15 are now published and/or contracted, let’s go with good!

The Seekers are an amazing group of contest divas who banded together to pray one another into publication.

Step back a few years. These gals repeatedly bumped heads in romance writing contests. They’d alternately place, win and nudge each other out of the tiara-wearing spot from week to week, contest to contest. Talk about annoying! Everyone knows I have the best tiara-wearing hair of the group! It’s not even close.


Big BUT…

These gals recognized each other’s drive and direction. If we were good individually, how much better could we be as a unit? To that end we started a Yahoo group dedicated to God and us, bound by faith, work and love.

Writing is a solitary business. It’s difficult to find or form a local writing group where members share a similar drive and/or spirit. That’s part of what makes The Seekers special. Seekers don’t quit, they persevere. They work. They pray. Then they work harder. We’ve been rejected, dejected and ejected but we refuse to cave. One by one the calls have come until now, when there are only four ladies keeping the campfires going on Unpubbed Island.

Nearly two years ago, Tina suggested we start a blog.

Someone suggested focusing on contests/writing since that’s what brought us together.

Perfect. We developed Seekerville, a gathering place where readers and writers can mingle, get great food, find a hospitable welcome and a kick in the butt (as needed) and know they’re not alone. Ever. God is with them and the Seekers are on hand to dole out chocolate, hankies, Kleenex, lectures (my job) and more chocolate.

Always chocolate. Chocolate is God-given, but you knew that, right?

God-centered, we love to have a good time. Joke. Laugh. Inspire. We revel in God’s amazing grace and the intrinsic frailties of human nature. We are flawed and fun, focused and faithful. A wonderful combination!

I hope the gals can stop by and add their takes on this journey. We’ve cried when kids go off to college and war, and celebrated their safe return. We’ve commiserated over hair color, waistlines and the whole idea of digital scales just seems wrong. I mean, whose idea WAS that, anyway???

We’ve lost parents, friends, babies, pets and teeth, and we’ve supported one another throughout. We revel in romance while admitting we’ve yet to figure men out. But that’s okay because they always come around in a romance novel, don’t they? If only it were that easy in real life.

Laughing here.

Thanks again for the invite, girls.

The Seekers

Ruth Logan Herne - Missy Tippens - Janet Dean
Sandra Leesmith - Myra Johnson - Cheryl Wyatt
Camy Tang - Julie Lessman - Cara Slaughter
Glynna Kaye - Mary Connealy - Pam Hillman
Tina M. Russo - Debby Giusti - Audra Harders

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Relatable Writing

Net's Notations--All About the Reader Series
Relatable Writing

Relatable. Blogger’s spellchecker doesn’t like it, but readers love it! I type the word “relatable” and immediately a dotted red line sends out an alert. Try again. Bad word. Ah, but it isn’t.

We will better minister to our readers when our writing is relatable.

So, here’s the challenge—we writers are oftentimes somewhat like hermits—perched behind our computers in corners of rooms, writing to an audience, but doing it alone. We’re hidden and sometimes we prefer to keep our hearts and minds, our pasts, our weaknesses hidden, too. We can hide behind our characters and their problems, their failures. We beat them up and give them heroic qualities to match their dilemmas. We distance ourselves from them because it’s safe.

But, for readers to commit to reading our books, to feel a connection with our characters, to root for them, we have to be open. Vulnerable. Personal (at some level). Relatable.

There is a specific Christian author who can make me cry in the opening pages of her books, if she wishes. There at the beginning of the story—a scenario so rich, so relatable, so painful, and I’m right there with the characters—weeping, sometimes. And that’s just the beginning of the story. I know when I pick up her books I will be crying at some point.

Now, I’m not talking a couple of “surface tears,” I’m talking a deep down mourning. That’s what she elicits by being relatable. She taps into emotions at the core of my experience—and likely her greater audience’s experience—and bam! I’m relating. I’m hooked. I’m emotionally invested. And I’m committed. All because she was relatable.

But as a writer, you can’t be relatable if you don’t let some of yourself out onto the screen—some of your own past, some of your own pain, some of your own emotions. Thing is, we’re all human and the human experience is relatable. You may think you’re the only one who has struggled with _____, but you aren’t. And there’s no shame in being human, right? God created us humans, and He’s not ashamed to call us His own.

The best emotions in print started with emotions at the keyboard.

It’s fearful for most of us. But it’s necessary. And it’s another way we can serve our readers.

Be brave. Be real. Be relatable. Because it’s all about the reader.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Author Voice, Part 4 by Megan DiMaria

Please welcome Megan DiMaria for her final installment on Author Voice.

Author Voice, Part 4

If you followed my previous articles, I hope you understand author voice a bit more. Author voice is the distinct manner in which a novelist creates sentences and story.

In Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, literary agent Donald Maass asks, “Are the voices of your characters ordinary and generic, or are they highly colored and specific? Heighten point of view throughout your manuscript, and you will strengthen your story’s impact.”

I took his advice to deepen the characterization, motivation, the setting of my character Linda in Out of Her Hands. And dug a bit deeper to find the particular way I would say it, to find my author voice.


I regard the beauty standing before me. And she is beautiful. If I’d seen a portrait of this girl, I’d have thought that her skin was retouched, her eyes were highlighted and her lips were enhanced. And her body? Well, you can just say it’s every man’s dream. No wonder Nick thinks he’s falling in love. What’s not to like?

She releases her timid grasp on my damp hand and we stand like two idiots, vacantly staring at one another, each smiling cautiously. I nod. “Shall we go inside?”

In response, she turns and leads me inside. Really, proper etiquette would have had her deferring to me, and following me into the house. Into my house.


I regard the beauty standing before me. And she is beautiful. If I’d seen a portrait of this girl, I’d have thought that her skin was retouched, her eyes were highlighted and her lips were enhanced. And her body? Well, you can just say it’s every man’s dream. No wonder Nick thinks he’s falling in love. What’s not to like?

She releases her timid grasp on my damp hand, and we stand like two idiots, each smiling at the other as if we were vacuous socialites about to go for the jugular over the last pair of $1,200 Versace leather boots. I nod. “Shall we go inside?”

In response, she turns and leads me inside. Really, proper etiquette would have had her deferring to me, and following me into the house. Into my house.

Here are some more tips to developing your author voice:

1. Allow yourself to be lousy—while you’re finding your voice, some of what you write may very well stink. That’s Okay. It’s all part of the process.

2. Write honestly and allow your passion to shine through. When you write from your personal feelings, your voice will be natural. Write as if you were talking to a friend.

3. Care about your subject matter. If you don’t care what you’re writing about, you’ll never discover your true voice.

4. Play games—Select a picture from a magazine, billboard, or advertisement, and write a one-line sentence about what is going on. Or go through old photo albums and write a short story about one of your favorite pictures.

In Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Brown and King say, “In order to write with a mature voice, you have to mature first.”

Be passionate with your ideas and put your feelings into your writing. Get emotional, but don’t tell your reader how you feel, show him/her.

What is your opinion? Don’t be afraid to share. Opinions give us our voice. I encourage you to practice your craft, pursue your voice, and perfect your style. And don't forget, have fun writing your story!

Megan DiMaria’s debut novel, Searching for Spice, is about a long-married woman who wants to have an affair—with her husband. Her second novel, Out of Her Hands, is about taking life as it comes at you with all the surprises and challenges you face with young adult children. In addition to reaching out through her novels, Megan also speaks to women’s groups and teaches on the craft of fiction to writers at conferences and regional seminars. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and assistant director of Words For The Journey Christian Writers Guild, Rocky Mountain Region. You can find her online at,, Facebook, and Twitter. She also authors an online writing column at, contributes to the Seriously Write blog, and the Coffee and the Muse writer’s ezine.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Your Comfort Zone by Lena Nelson Dooley

It’s Fortifying Friday, and today we welcome friend and guest author, Lena Nelson Dooley.

When you're around Lena, you can't help but feel lifted up and encouraged. She always has a kind word and hug for everyone. Lena is known not only for her books, but also her heart for mentoring other writers.

Your Comfort Zone

The place where you are now is a comfort zone. When He asks you to step out in faith to a place that seems beyond your skills or beyond your reach, there is always a reason.

God makes comfort zones. They have a place in our lives. In the comfort zone, God renews us and heals our hurts. We learn to trust in the comfort zone.

However, when we stay in a comfort zone too long, it becomes a rut. When God has renewed and strengthened and healed us, He is ready for us to step out. Most new growth doesn’t take place in the comfort zone. Only when we listen to His voice and test our new trust can we truly grow and move toward the place God wants us to be.

At one time, that comfort zone wasn’t comfortable. It took a step of faith to reach it in the beginning.

As God uses that safe place, then it becomes a comfort zone. Remember wherever God asks you to go will be a safe place of growth. He won’t ask you to go anywhere that will destroy you. He only wants to strengthen you.

That scary place He’s calling you to will one day become a comfort zone to launch you into even greater places of ministry.

Lena Nelson Dooley is a multi-published, award-winning author, who really enjoys encouraging other authors along the way. She is currently writing a novel for Summerside Press - Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico. She and her husband live in Texas, where they're active in church. They love to travel, go to movies, spend time friends and family, and just be together. They will soon celebrate 45 years together.

Please visit Lena’s Web sites and blogs. - Monthly free book - Author interviews/Free books - Regular Blogger

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Time to Rest

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

I said, "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest -
(Psalm 55:6 NIV)

I hated naps as a child.

I didn’t see the point.

Why should I be forced to lie down and rest when I didn’t feel tired?

Summer evenings were brutal. From an open bedroom window I could hear older children in the neighborhood still playing outside. I’d toss and turn in bed while the sun still shone for another hour.

What a waste.

My parents told me that when I grew up I’d feel differently about bedtime. I’d look forward to it.

I didn’t believe them.

As a busy adult I tend to push the limits. There are often more things to do in a day than there is time to accomplish them.

How differently I feel now when I crawl under the covers and lay my head on the pillow. I sigh with contentment at how good it feels to rest. My parents were right.

As writers, many of us struggle with finding balance in our lives. If we’re working diligently on our manuscripts, articles, or blogs, we may worry that we’re neglecting time with our families. While watching TV with our spouse or playing a board game with our children, we may internally feel pressure to get back to the computer.

It feels like there isn’t any time for rest.

There isn’t time to just sit and read a book for pleasure.

Or sip coffee while lounging on the back deck of our home.

Because we need to get that chapter written—that blog posted—and the multitude of emails answered.

But God knew how important it was for us to rest.

He told us to devote one day a week to it.

Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day, you shall rest.” (Exodus 34:12 NIV)

It’s a good reminder for me that it’s okay to rest.

And perhaps . . . just perhaps . . . if I listen to Him, I’ll have enough energy and inspiration to whip off that chapter in no time.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Writer's Tips by Anita Higman

Please welcome author, Anita Higman, as she shares 10 tips to help writers on their own journey to publication.

1. Read. I have discovered that the more I read, the better I write.

2. Follow all leads from networking opportunities, writer’s conferences, and tips from writer friends.

3. Look for “holes” in the market place. One way of finding holes is to talk to booksellers and librarians. You might discover that there is a real need for a certain kind of book. Perhaps a number of patrons have asked repeatedly for a particular subject and there are few or no books written on it.

4. Try brainstorming when you are out of ideas. Then when the ideas do flow, start a file for later use. For example, you could have a file with character profiles, bits of dialogue, fresh book titles, or other items that you could eventually use in a new piece of writing.

5. Read all your work out loud. It sounds simple but it is a valuable tool.

6. Titles are very important. Make sure that your title is the very best it can be for your work. If you don’t like it, brainstorm until you find a new one, or use a dazzling phrase from your manuscript.

7. If you feel a burnout approaching, and you’re actually thinking about throwing in the towel, put your work aside, read a book for fun—not analyzing, start a journal, go on a writer’s retreat, or take a break by writing something very different from what you are accustomed to writing.

8. Try making a habit of writing, even when you don’t think you’re in an inspired mood.

9. Pray that God will guide you and help you be the best writer you can be.

10. Many popular authors have known plenty of rejection, so you are not alone if you have received rejection slips. (Years ago I collected a file folder full!) The bottom line is – if it is your calling to write, don’t give up.

* Tips used with permission from Anita's Web site.

Award-winning author, Anita Higman, has twenty-four books published (several co-authored) for adults and children. A few of Anita's books are Love Finds You in Humble, Texas, Another Stab at Life, Another Hour to Kill, The Celestial Helix, Pokeweed and Mrs. Gasp, and Big Book of Holidays and Holy Days. She also has contributions in ten nonfiction compilations, and has also written for radio, television, ezine, and advertising.

Anita has lived in Texas for the past twenty-five years, but was born and raised on a wheat and cattle farm in western Oklahoma. Besides writing, Anita's other interests are reading great books, going to the movies, and cooking brunch for her friends. She lives with her husband near Houston, Texas.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Serving your Reader

Serving Your Reader
Net's Notations: All About the Reader Series
, Part 8

Writing is only one part of being an author. Ask any author who’s participated in a book signing and they’ll tell you. I stood across a signing table from Liz Curtis Higgs, gushing about her openness as she speaks. I mentioned seeing her in Seattle. (We were both in Dallas at the time.) She said, “Well, I hope I shared enough new material that you got something out of it this time, too.” See that? Thinking about her readers.

Ask yourself: How can I minister to my readers?

We’ve been exploring how to minister to your reader while you’re writing. What about after the book is released? Here are some tips for ministering to your reader:

~Pray for your reader (while writing and after the book is released).

~Pray how you can meet the reader’s needs in your writing.

~Pray your book will minister to the reader as s/he reads.

Any time you have a chance to visit with a reader, remember they have real needs in their lives. Be a listener. Sure maintain healthy boundaries. Sometimes a smile, a kind word, a positive outlook will bless them. Forgive me if this sounds like vanity, but how much weight would you give the words of someone you admired (like a favorite author) if they spoke directly into your situation, as an agent of the Lord? See what I mean? Jerry B. Jenkins encourages you in your writing life, you’re encouraged! ;-)

Published authors: do you ever include a Scripture reference when you sign books? I like to. So, what about praying before you put your usual verse down? Perhaps you usually sign with Jeremiah 29:11, but this person needs the encouragement of Psalm 91. God knows.

There are plenty of ways to minister to our readers:

~blog giveaways
~free books to prisons or libraries
~freebies to shut-ins
~a personal emailed response
~a note tucked into a book cover
~taking the time to listen
~ministering to readers via your Web site--an inspirational page

What ideas can you think of?

God wants to help you be strategic. Ask Him how best to minister to your readers, from start to finish. It’s all about the reader.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Author Voice, Part 3 by Megan DiMaria

Please welcome Megan DiMaria with Part Three of her Author Voice series!

Author Voice, Part 3

I hope you’re enjoying the different samples of author voice I’ve been sharing in my previous articles. I’ve got a few more distinctive voices to share with you.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

There is a loneliness that can be rocked. Arms crossed, knees drawn up; holding on, this motion, unlike a ship’s, smoothes and contains the rocker. It’s an inside kind—wrapped tight like a skin. Then there is a loneliness that roams. No rocking can hold it down. It is alive, on its own. A dry and spreading thing that make the sound of one’s own feet going seem to come from a far-off place.

I think you'll agree that Ms. Morrison definitely has her own distinctive voice. I love to get lost in her beautiful, lyrical style.

Tangerine by Marilynn Griffith

Fall came to New York like a Good Samaritan, blanketing the city with a generous wind. Clouds floated tall and wide, majestic like a grown man a good suit. Jean Guerra lent her short hair to the cold, giving the wind a place to leave some goodness. Instead, the air blew past her face a brushed her lips like a kiss from God.

One thing I love about Marilynn Griffith's novels is her use of sensory elements. Her novel Made of Honor had so many delightful references to fragrance that I had to email her one day after I was in a soap and fragrance store in Aspen to tell her that it made me think of her novel.

Here are a few tips on how you can develop your unique voice:

1. Read, read, read—fiction, non-fiction, in your genre, out of your genre.

2. Write, write, write—don’t limit yourself to one particular type or genre of writing. Experiment. Write letters, blogs, dreams, and greeting cards

3. Copy—sit down and copy the voice of an author you admire or whose work is distinctive. You will always put your own spin on the style, incorporating your worldview and your own tone of language.

4. Limit yourself—write only 140-character thoughts. Twitter challenges you to write your thoughts in only 140 characters, you must be able to distill the essence of what you’re communicating. It helps you to boil down your language to the most meaningful idea.

Visit this site again next week for the rest of the list.

Megan DiMaria’s debut novel, Searching for Spice, is about a long-married woman who wants to have an affair—with her husband. Her second novel, Out of Her Hands, is about taking life as it comes at you with all the surprises and challenges you face with young adult children. In addition to reaching out through her novels, Megan also speaks to women’s groups and teaches on the craft of fiction to writers at conferences and regional seminars. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and assistant director of Words For The Journey Christian Writers Guild, Rocky Mountain Region. You can find her online at,, Facebook, and Twitter. She also authors an online writing column at, contributes to the Seriously Write blog, and the Coffee and the Muse writer’s ezine.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fortifying Fridays by Sanda D. Bricker

When Annette told me about this blog, I just loved the idea of calling the segment Fortifying Fridays. It sounds so … strong! And I’m a good one to talk to writers about “fortification” because that’s exactly how I feel these days as a writer. Fortified! [Insert flexing muscle here.]

Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas allowed me to push through into the inspirational market at last, after years of hoping and trying. I’d published in the YA market with a Christian publisher, but I really wanted to write women’s fiction, so Summerside’s request for me to write something funny to launch their Love Finds You line was such a blessing. There are few things I enjoy more in life than laughing … and I laughed my way through the whole writing process!

I got a lot of reader mail about that book, and I was so touched by the myriad ways that they identified with the characters. I heard from young readers about how Lucy was so cool and funny; then moms would write to me about how they passed the book on to their daughters, and the laughter they shared brought them closer together; and an 86-year-old reader pecked out a 3-line note about how she’d never sent an e-mail before, but she felt compelled to tell me what a fun read it had been. By the time it was nominated for its first readers’ choice award, I was already fully aware that Snowball was something very special.

So now, less than a year after its release, hindsight being so very 20/20, I can excitedly flex my “fortified” muscle and celebrate the role Snowball has played in building my career. Aside from being named a finalist in the National Readers’ Choice Awards and winning second place in the Write Touch Readers’ Awards, I was especially thrilled to take third place in the short contemporary category of the IRCCs. In addition, that one novel has opened the door for five more contracts for books that will release between now and 2011.

As many of you know because of the association between the devotional I co-authored (Be Still … and Let Your Nail Polish Dry with Debby Mayne, Loree Lough and Andrea Boeshaar) and the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, I am a survivor of ovarian cancer. During that battle, the Lord continued to bring Jeremiah 29:11 into my heart.

“I have a plan for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Five years later, as I look back on that beautiful scripture brought to me in the midst of a time when an actual future was a difficult reality for me to grasp, I often wonder if part of that plan was to snowball the writing career I’d been dreaming about for such a large portion of my life. So I encourage you this day, dear writer buds. You never know what’s around the next corner!

Award-winning author Sandra D. Bricker wrote screenplays and also published articles, fiction and non-fiction for kids, and sweet romance for secular readers before making her mark with laugh-out-loud romantic comedy for the inspirational market in 2008. A frequent speaker on the subjects of writing and promotion, Bricker now makes her home in Tampa, Florida. Visit her blog here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Don't Give Up!

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

But as for you, be strong and do not give up,
for your work will be rewarded.
(2Ch 15:7 NIV)

Do you ever feel like giving up?

As I writer?

Do you cringe inside when people ask if your book is ever going to be published?

Or if you’re still working on that little “hobby” of yours?

It can be painful if your spouse, children, or friends don’t understand why you spend so much time in your writing world.

It may feel defeating when many hours sacrificed at the computer don’t produce desired contracts. Or an agent even willing to sign you.

And if you have a job outside of the home, it can be tiring rising in the wee hours of the morning, or staying up until you fall asleep at the computer later in the evening. Just so you can type a few more words before they evaporate from memory like rain water on a sweltering day.

You may ask, “Why am I working so hard when I'm getting nowhere? What’s the point?”

You might even ask God, “Do you really care that I’m trying to use my passion for writing to do good? The passion you gave me?”

Don’t lose heart. Be strong and of good faith.

If you feel called to write, don’t give up.

God hears. And He cares.

Your work will be rewarded.

It may not come in the form of a five book contract, an enormous advance on a manuscript you sell, or your article printed in a prestigious magazine.

But it will come.
And you’ll recognize it when it does.

Happy writing!


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Christian Fiction Online Magazine

This week, Writer’s Journey Wednesday features the exciting publication, Christian Fiction Online Magazine (CFOM). You’ll find it full of helpful articles written by authors, agents, and editors. Michelle Sutton - author, book reviewer, and CFOM editor shares how the magazine got started and how she became involved.

Christian Fiction Online Magazine was first created in Bonnie Calhoun's mind. She’s the Founder and Director of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance that branched off to include the online magazine as an extension of the blog tours. The hope was to provide another service to readers, authors, and publishers.

I literally received an e-mail back in Feb or March of 2008 from Bonnie asking if I'd like to be a magazine editor. Of course, I totally thought she was kidding. But she was serious. I prayed about it and once the ideas started to simmer and then bubble over in my mind I knew it was God's will for me to work with Bonnie on the magazine.

In addition to the prayer I submitted to God, I also asked Him to hook me up with willing authors who were talented and interested in contributing to a monthly magazine. He showed me a lot of ways within which he could use my natural creativity. Then it just took off. Response was overwhelmingly positive and I’m not hurting for columnists or articles at all.

We’re always looking for new ideas, and advertising is affordable. We offer it at a range of prices. Since Bonnie and I both spend about 40 hours per week working on the magazine, plus have hired three staff to work for us, we need the money to pay them and ourselves for our efforts. Even pastors get paid, correct? While this is a ministry, we still have bills to pay including the web server and postage, etc.

One final note . . . I love this "ministry" and plan to continue until the Lord takes the desire away from me. It's a great outlet for my creativity and a positive way to spread the word about Christian fiction. I will be at the conference in Denver and giving out new business cards to anyone who wants to spread the word about CFOM.

Check out the latest issue of Christian Fiction Online Magazine.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Gaining Reader Trust

Gaining Reader Trust
Net's Notations: All About the Reader Series, Part 7

It's imperative readers trust you, if you want them to continue to follow you.

They need to trust:

Your name.

Your themes.

Your words.

Your takeaway.

Your values.

What you stand for as an author.

In many ways you have to give the reader what they want.

I picked up what I thought was a romance and didn’t find anything except a truckload of what seemed like extra characters. Immediately my “reader trust” factor was broken.

It’s difficult to keep reading a book like that.

That is not the response you want readers to have when they pick up your work.

You also want to consistently write good books. Take time for studying the craft because you don’t want readers to outgrow your writing one day and look over your work and decide you aren’t what you used to be. They keep growing (hopefully); you should, too.

Be original as much as you can, even when it comes to your own work. Don’t recast characters you’ve used before. Don’t insult your readers this way. They’ll know.

Give you readers the kind of prose they expect from you—your voice, your values, your Christian worldview.

Earn readers’ trust by remembering it’s all about the reader.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Understanding Author Voice by Megan DiMaria

Please welcome Megan DiMaria back with her continuing series on author voice.

Understanding Author Voice

In my previous article we started discussing author voice, which is the distinct manner in which a novelist creates sentences and story.

In other words, your voice is your exclusive worldview: your beliefs, your fears, your attitudes, your dreams, the way you react to situations.

All of this means that you have to put yourself on your page. This is what is known as developing your voice. Voice isn't merely style. Style would be easy by comparison. Style is watching your use of adjectives and doing a few flashy things with alliteration or simile. Style without voice is flat. Voice is style, plus personal observations, plus passion, plus belief, plus desire. Voice is revealing yourself on the page, and it can be a powerful, frightening experience.

Yesterday we looked at two samples of writing, today there are two more “voices” to listen to:

Women’s Intuition by Lisa Samson

FLANNERY DESERVES TO KNOW THE TRUTH about her father. One day I'm going to have to tell her. But not tonight. I am worn out.

It's a tiredness of years.

You know how those ladies' magazines pretend women can do it all and still appear fresh as a sweet-smelling daisy by a clear Swiss spring? Wearing cute loafers, tweed miniskirts, and a camel cashmere twinset, they deposit their kids at soccer in sleek silver cars, green vans with television screens, or gargantuan white SUVs. Drive-through windows constitute meal planning. They see the best doctors because they don't mind going across town. Malls and boutiques bark their clothing on glitzy, stylistic posters. They instantly rid themselves of the nasty Flair inserts in the Valu-Pak coupon collections I look forward to each month. And they throw them into a recycling bin they bought from some woodsy, catalog-driven company.

They adroitly embroider their own existence with the silk threads of others' lives as though the fabric of their day-to-day duties was spun of gossamer and not the heavy mail plates that make up mine.

Was I ever like that?

Once upon a time, I suppose.

Magdalene by Angela Hunt

SILENCE, AS HEAVY AS DOOM, wraps itself around me as two guards lead me into the lower-level judgment hall. When I fold my hands, the chink of my chains disturbs the quiet.

My judge, Flavius Gemellus, senior centurion of the Cohors Secunda halica Civum Romanorum, looks up from the rolls of parchment on his desk, his eyes narrow. I don't blame him for being annoyed. I am not a Roman citizen, so I have no right to a trial. Besides, I have already confessed and am ready to die.

Do you see a big difference between Angela Hunt’s and Lisa Samson’s excerpts? What do you hear that’s very different?

Can you see the difference in style, personal observations, author’s passions and beliefs in these two samples? Can you glimpse into their worldviews through their voice? I think so. Also, both authors wrote in first person, yet Lisa’s is introspective, and Angela’s character is evaluating her surroundings. Both authors have a very distinctive voice.

Be sure to come back next week. I’ve got some more wonderful samples to examine and some tips on developing your voice.

Megan DiMaria’s debut novel, Searching for Spice, is about a long-married woman who wants to have an affair—with her husband. Her second novel, Out of Her Hands, is about taking life as it comes at you with all the surprises and challenges you face with young adult children. In addition to reaching out through her novels, Megan also speaks to women’s groups and teaches on the craft of fiction to writers at conferences and regional seminars. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and assistant director of Words For The Journey Christian Writers Guild, Rocky Mountain Region. You can find her online at,, Facebook, and Twitter. She also authors an online writing column at, contributes to the Seriously Write blog, and the Coffee and the Muse writer’s ezine.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Morning Edict by Janice Thompson

Please welcome author Janice Thompson with this encouragement before heading into your weekend.

Morning Edict

Dawn awakens and I attempt to do the same. With diet soda in hand and eyes still crusted over from sleep, I drag up the stairs and cross over into hallowed territory. In this sacred place I have witnessed miracles, waged wars and struggled to maintain my sanity. I love this spot nearly as much as I despise it. A turn to the left, my heart aiming to the right, and I sit to translate His daily symphony. My ritual has become almost commonplace, and I fear I might one day forget the awesome responsibility of this call – this blissful, gut-wrenching call.

The sublime dances alongside the mundane and I witness it all as my fingers prepare to transcribe the notes on the page. These two worlds confuse and delight me. Oh, the wonder of such a majestic composition! Oh, the fragility of a heart aching to be used. How great, the ensuing battle between the two. I find myself forever torn between wanting to do His will and wondering if I am capable of constructing even one intelligent sentence. Can I lay down my insecurities and selfish desires long enough to pencil the message the Lord places on my heart this morning? Will there be a message worth conveying?

The instruments begin to warm up – a harsh contrast to my ears as each one pits itself against the other. For a brief moment I’m baffled by the cacophony of sounds, the sheer confusion of it all. Then, miraculously, all of the dissonance fades into one clear, singular note and I am free to begin. My fingertips dance across near-silent keys, a stark contrast to the plinking and plunking of yesterday’s typewriter. Today’s message tip-toes out onto a bright white screen, and I come alive as the oil begins to flow – blessed, holy oil that washes over me with its invigorating power. The music is pouring now, and I am tuned in as never before. I race. I sit idle. I sing in three keys at once. I hold back, suspended in time. I press anxious keys. I wait in silence.

Sometimes, truth be told, I forget to wait. Some days I forge ahead, anxious to meet the deadline, state my case and impress potential readers with carefully crafted words. On those days, pride becomes my friend. We feed one another tasteless foods and toast our victories with empty glasses. Then, just as quickly, arrogance gives way to defeat. There are days when I search aimlessly for words, unable to locate even one. On those days, hopelessness seeps in and the enemy of my soul whispers the phrase I’ve grown to dread, “How can you offer up what you don’t even possess?” Just as quickly, the voice of the Lord echoes loudly in my ears, reminding me that I possess heaven and earth. Heaven, I can share with those on earth. Heaven, I must share with those on earth.

I clamor for forgiveness and the Lord whispers words of solace. Hope kicks in and I’m on my way once more. Faithful fingers begin to dance with joy and something miraculous occurs. In that moment, as heaven and earth meet, self gives way to the Spirit of God. I cease typing and He begins. Tiny black words tumble out onto a barren white screen, then somehow plunge forward into paragraphs. Paragraphs gently press their way into full pages. Pages majestically align themselves to compose chapters, and chapters gloriously sing until they erupt into books. I don’t mind playing the role of spectator as His stories take shape. In fact, I have grown rather accustomed to it.

Tomorrow morning I will rise from my bed and wipe the sleep from my eyes. I will once again face the challenge of the call of God on my life – to write, or not to write? As I step foot onto that hallowed ground I call my workspace, I will empty myself of all I desire and give myself over.


Award-winning author Janice Thompson also writes under the pseudonym Janice Hanna. She got her start in the industry writing screenplays and musical comedies for the stage. Janice has published over fifty books for the Christian market, crossing genre lines to write cozy mysteries, historicals, romances, nonfiction books, devotionals, children's books and more. In addition, she enjoys editing, ghost-writing, public speaking, and mentoring young writers. Janice currently serves as Vice-President of CAN (Christian Authors Network) and was named the 2008 Mentor of the year for ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). She is active in her local writing group, where she regularly teaches on the craft of writing. Janice is passionate about her faith and does all she can to share the joy of the Lord with others, which is why she particularly enjoys writing. She lives in Spring, Texas, where she leads a rich life with her family, a host of writing friends, and two mischievous dachshunds. She does her best to keep the Lord at the center of it all.

You can find out more about Janice at

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Bless the Lord!

Thursdays - Devotions for Writers

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face
shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his
face toward you and give you peace.”
(Num. 6:24-26 NIV)

The words from Numbers 6:24-26 are beautiful and comforting. I always love to hear them spoken at the end of a worship service. What a great visual—God turning His face toward us—smiling—giving us His blessing and peace.

We’re great at blessing each other. We say, “Bless you!” when someone sneezes, a person does something nice for us, or even just in parting and going our separate ways.

Asking for God’s blessing comes easy, too. We ask God to bless our food, our family, our home. We ask Him to bless our businesses with success. Our bodies with good health. The crops with good weather. The list goes on.

As writers, we often ask God to bless our work. “Oh, Lord, please bless me with the right words.” “Lord, bless my meeting today with the editor.” “Lord, please bless the people who read my books.”

Sound familiar?

There’s nothing wrong with asking for God’s blessing. He desires to bless us abundantly.

But, if as Christian writers we’re supposed to think about writing for an audience of one—God—then maybe we should also consider another blessing.

Maybe we should be writing with the goal of blessing God.

Have you ever thought of it that way?

Your words—your thoughts—your stories on paper—being an offering and blessing to Him?

Shouldn’t that be our primary purpose?

This week as you put pen to paper—or type words onto your computer screen—think only about blessing God. See what happens.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Christian PEN

Are you a writer thinking about pursuing freelance editing or proofreading?

Have you asked the question, “Where do I start?”

I did and found answers through The Christian PEN.

The Christian PEN is a professional support organization for Christians who perform proofreading, editing, critiquing, and similar services for writers and publishers (and those who are interested in doing so). It was created for networking among editors and proofreaders, whether they work part time or full time, freelance or employed. Members share helpful tips, information, and updates on various topics related to editing and proofreading. They’re dedicated to the spirit of cooperative competition.

Writers and publishers looking for freelance proofreaders and copyeditors can find assistance in finding the right match for their needs.

Many of the organization’s members are writers themselves with published works.

Online classes offer valuable information in getting started and being successful as a freelance proofreader or editor. A few of the topics include: Establishing Your Freelance Business, Copyediting and Proofreading for Clients, Editing Fiction, Marketing Your Services, Ghost Writing and Collaborating, and Mentoring Writers.

To find out more, please visit The Christian PEN.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Takeaway--the Gift You Give Your Reader

Takeaway-The Gift You Give Your Readers
Net's Notations: All About the Reader Series, Part 6

Ever read a novel and find yourself connecting so readily with the character’s dilemma that you close the book to ponder your own life?

Ever finished a novel and felt visited by the characters after their story was told, simply because the author communicated their problems’ solutions so clearly you took them with you?

Takeaway. Value you can take with you after reading.

Evidence of takeaway in fiction: "Oh, that was such a great story!” and changed lives.

Evidence of takeaway in non-fiction: All those highlighted pages and dog-eared corners.

Takeaway is easier to pin down in non-fiction pieces, like ten keys to success or how to shave your dog in three easy steps. (grin with a disclaimer—I’m a non pet owner)

But fiction novels have it too. I don’t often give examples, but this one just zoomed up to me from the past and I knew it wouldn’t be denied: Surrender Bay by Denise Hunter is a beautiful allegory (which is in itself a rare find). If you haven’t read it—read it! No Christian should miss this anointed story of Jesus’ love for each of us.

In the context of a romance, Denise Hunter paints the picture of Jesus loving His bride (a believer) despite her own doubts about 1) herself, 2) her stuff, 3) his love for her barring all doubts.

Surrender Bay stays with me still, though I read it soon after it released two or so years ago.

Good books will warm your heart. Great books will do that and give you irresistible takeaway.

And the best takeaway for a Christian book is something in regards to your relationship with God Himself, and/or your relationships with people.

Prayerfully consider your book’s takeaway so you can better bless your readers, because it’s all about the reader!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Author Voice, Part 1 by Megan DiMaria

Please welcome author Megan DiMaria for a series on author voice. She'll be here the first four Mondays in August with a new article on voice every week.

Author Voice

A lot of time is spent in writing circles discussing author voice. What is it? How do you perfect it?

According to bestselling author Brandilyn Collins, author voice is the distinct manner in which a novelist creates sentences and story.

Let’s look at some passages from books by two authors and “listen” to a few different voices and what they say to us.

Coming Home by Rosamund Pilcher:

The Porthkerris Council School stood half-way up the steep hill which climbed from the heart of the little town to the empty moors which lay beyond. It was a solid Victorian edifice, built of granite blocks, and had three entrances, marked Boys, Girls, and Infants, a legacy from the days when segregation of the sexes was mandatory. It was surrounded by a Tarmac playground and a tall wrought-iron fence, and presented a fairly forbidding face to the world. But on this late afternoon in December, it stood fairly ablaze with light, and from its open doors streamed a flood of excited children, laden with boot-bags, book-bags, balloons on strings, and small paper bags filled with sweets. They emerged in small groups, jostling and giggling and uttering shrieks of cheerful abuse at each other, before finally dispersing and setting off for home.

What does this author’s voice say to us? Ms. Pilcher invites us into a fictional setting with rich detail but without lingering on the minutia that might bog down the story. (Confession time, she’s one of my all-time favorite authors.) She seems affectionate in describing this scene and wanting us to see the excited children as they head on home. I imagine that I’m sitting in a toasty kitchen, sipping tea while a dear friend tells me a good story.

Here’s another sample:

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote:

The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call "out there." Some seventy miles east of the Colorado border, the countryside, with its hard blue skies and desert-clear air, has an atmosphere that is rather more Far West than Middle West. The local accent is barbed with a prairie twang, a ranch-hand nasalness, and the men, many of them, wear narrow frontier trousers, Stetsons, and high-heeled boots with pointed toes. The land is flat, and the views are awesomely extensive; horses, herds of cattle, a white cluster of grain elevators rising as gracefully as Greek temples are visible long before a traveler reaches them.

Capote’s description of Holcomb is almost clinical in style. His voice colors his description of the setting, especially when talks about the local accent. He seems to show no special affection for the area, yet he’s invited us to Holcomb to journey with him as he investigates the story behind a family murdered. His is such a different voice than Pilcher’s, don’t you think?

I have good news and bad news for you today.

The good news is that no one, no other writer, speaker, or thinker can steal your voice. Your voice is what publishers will buy. Your voice is the only product readers can’t get anywhere else.

The bad news is that no one can teach you how to create your voice.

But, I have more good news—with practice, you can discover and develop your voice.

Join me again next Monday when we look at a few more authors’ voices and continue this discussion.

But, tell me—have you found your author voice?

Megan DiMaria’s debut novel, Searching for Spice, is about a long-married woman who wants to have an affair—with her husband. Her second novel, Out of Her Hands, is about taking life as it comes at you with all the surprises and challenges you face with young adult children. In addition to reaching out through her novels, Megan also speaks to women’s groups and teaches on the craft of fiction to writers at conferences and regional seminars. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and assistant director of Words For The Journey Christian Writers Guild, Rocky Mountain Region. You can find her online at,, Facebook, and Twitter. She also authors an online writing column at, contributes to the Seriously Write blog, and the Coffee and the Muse writer’s ezine.