Friday, June 29, 2012

Live the Miracle by Jennifer Rogers Spinola

Writers dream of their first contract. But having a book published doesn’t mean the journey ends there. New challenges soon follow. I’m so pleased to have Jennifer Rogers Spinola with us today. Jennifer has been nominated for a 2012 Christy Award in the first novel category with her book “Southern Fried Sushi.” She shares some of the joys and fears she’s experienced during her own publishing journey. Soak in her encouraging words. ~ Dawn

Live the Miracle
by Jennifer Rogers Spinola

Something happens once you’re lucky enough to land a publishing contract: you silently wring your hands, wondering if you can ever make it happen again.

It’s a funny thing, this transformation from wide-eyed awe at the very idea that someone would publish something YOU WROTE to the nervous fingernail biting of, “Now what? Will I ever publish again, or are my author days over?” And even funnier is the lightning speed in which it happens, like a noxious weed suddenly shading out the sun.

I feel it so clearly, even now, as I nestle in my summer-hot bedroom in South Dakota, glancing over at a corner of my dresser where my tiny, personal stash of my “Southern Fried Sushi” series novels line up. Reminding me of euphorious joy at the word “contract”, the copyediting, the exciting cover design process, the hastily proofed galleys. All culminating in a cardboard box of books that made its way to Brasilia, Brazil, on a sweltering tropical day.

I stood there on the cool portico under the apartment complex as the apartment porteiro, or glorified receptionist/caretaker/handyman, sliced through clear tape with a pocket knife and peeled back the brown cardboard wings. And there: a layer of glossy book covers, with my name in perfect script.

Fast forward to now, as I await the publication of my next two contracted books. I’ve turned in all my manuscripts; all but one galley proofed. I’ve seen the covers. I have no more contracts.

What now? I worry sometimes, looking over at those books on my dresser, that I’m done. I rack my brain for ideas, wondering if this plot or that setting might be just the thing to land a new contract and go through the delightful process again: the edits, the critiques, the flush of happiness as I get the scene just right.

Maybe it will.

And yet maybe it won’t.

I sense the same impatience rising up as I stare down at my swollen belly, still trying to understand how, after eight years of marriage and one beautiful adopted child later, I am somehow pregnant. A surprise! A miracle! After years of picturing our family with only three members, I suddenly imagine the car full of children. New babies and splayed baby name books. Four, five, or six!

We are Israel wandering in the desert, rushing along from the parting of the Red Sea and water from the rock to manna, always looking for something more, something better, something bigger. Leeks! Garlic! We cry in our cravings, forgetting that God has spared us from death at the hands of Pharaoh’s army. Give us more water! Give us meat!

Something more, something greater—barely allowing the iridescent dust of a miracle to settle, shimmering, before clamoring for another one.

And yet something precious is lost when we look beyond the golden glow of our own unexpected gift, our answered prayer, and immediately begin to want. To worry. To fret—as I do—“is this it? Or is there more?”

Writers, if you have published a book, rejoice in a gift that thousands have never enjoyed. If anxiously search Amazon for reviews, wondering if you’ve got what it takes to publish again, stop! Thank the Lord. Continue to write, of course, but don’t follow the market like a hound sniffing rabbit blood, desperately trying to keep up with the trends and publish again at all costs. Write. Just write. And let the Lord guide you. Let Him inspire you, open the way, put all the shining pieces of His plan in place.

If you’ve never published, rejoice in that, too—for writing is its own gift. A constant friend, an inner world that only you can hear and taste. “A writer doesn’t write to be published,” said my dear friend and professor Dr. Gayle Price, now with the Lord. “She writes because she can’t not write.”

The truth is, we cannot—and should not—try to “reproduce” the miracle. We cannot force open the bud, or tear open the seed to find the tender shoot. We wait, pray, write, study our craft—and trust God to bring what He wants from our labors.

I whisper to the little one nestled in my belly: “Maybe you will be my only birth child. Maybe you won’t. But you will be perfect, however you come.”    

Live the miracle, whether you write or carry children or never publish or go to your grave with a barren womb. HE is the miracle—Christ risen and died for our sins—and the only inspiration and hope we ever need. 

Click to reach Amazon.
Jennifer Rogers Spinola lives in Belle Fourche, South Dakota with her Brazilian husband, Athos, and three-year-old son, Ethan. She and her family just relocated to rural South Dakota after spending eight years in Brazil, and before that, Jennifer served two years in northern Japan as a Baptist missionary. She is the author of Barbour Books' "Southern Fried Sushi" series—including one Christy Award finalist novel—and an upcoming romance novella collection based on Yellowstone National Park (also with Barbour Books) to be released in 2013. Jennifer is an advocate for adoption and loves the outdoors, photography, writing, and camping. She has previously served as a middle- and high-school teacher, ESL teacher in Japan and Brazil, and National Park Service volunteer. Jenny has a B.A. in English/journalism from Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina. She is a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Belle Fourche, Association of Christian Fiction Writers, and International Christian Fiction Writers.

If you want to learn more about Jennifer, please visit:
Professional website:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Key Writing Tip

Hey writers, Annette here. I have a very important piece of advice for you today. Very important. So important and so obvious, you may have overlooked it. Lots of writers already do it. Can’t help themselves really. It comes naturally. And it makes sense since it’s of interest to them. 

What is it? 

Read in your genre. Read a lot in your genre. 

I’ve known a few writers over the years who were trying to publish their own manuscripts, but who boastfully proclaimed they hadn't read extensively in their chosen genre. Honestly, that just left them at a disadvantage, playing "catch up" when their editors asked for changes because they weren't familiar with what's out there.

When's the right time to read? Right now. Whether you're published or not, you can always benefit from reading in your genre.

Here’s what you gain:

~ Intel. You get to see firsthand what publishers are acquiring. That’s really helpful information. When/If you pitch to them later, you can site that specific book or series. Editors appreciate knowing you’ve read their house’s novels.

~ Wisdom. Writing workshops and how-to manuals teach you a lot. But reading, seeing those lessons on the page (or screen, for e-book readers) teaches you as well. Plus, it’s entertaining. Study how the author accomplished everything you find in those pages. For example, say you’re reading along and suddenly you’re crying because you’re so wrapped up in the story. Go back and figure out exactly how the writer got you, as the reader, to cry. What did she do? How did he do it? Then, incorporate your new lessons into your own writing. Also, by reading in your genre, you see how the author(s) set the tone of the novel, set the mood for the story, stayed true to the genre. And then you can do the same.

~  Reader’s perspective. You’re a writer, but you’re also a reader. While you’re reading someone else’s book, you’re experiencing something similar to what readers will experience when they read your book(s). As a reader, what are your expectations of books in your favorite genre? Now, as a writer, go to your own manuscript and incorporate those elements into your story. Giving readers what they want is a great way to garner their loyalty. Loyal readers are contagious. They talk up your books to their friends and suddenly, you’ve got more readers. Let the buzz begin!

~ Your own voice. Reading extensively helps us develop our own voice. Even if you have a well-established writing voice, reading will help you hone that voice. Ironically, you'll become more of an original, and that's what editors are looking for.

Read everything you can, and stay up-to-date with what’s being released. That way, you know the current trends as well. (Like how POV rules have changed over the years, or which house is looking for historical romance versus contemporary romance, for example.) 

So, my writing friends, read on!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I Couldn't Put It Down: Romance Part 4

Happy Wednesday, my writing friends!

This series has gone on longer than I expected. I must have more to say about romance than I thought. Today’s topic is suspense…

Note: I’m not talking about the genre of romantic suspense, but just injecting suspense in romance of any kind.

Have you ever read a book in which you were dying for the characters to get together? It’s so good, the wind of the turning pages hits you in the face. How do we do that? Here are a few suggestions.

The Accidental Touch
I use this early on, often before my characters know they care about each other. Imagine Hero and Heroine bickering on a boat dock. A wave rocks the dock, causing Heroine to fall into Hero’s arms. Bam! Tension, suspense. And omitting my characters’ reactions only adds to the suspense.

Unfinished Conversations
Hero’s and Heroine’s feelings have begun to bloom. Readers know they care about each other and need to confess their love. Hero begins to talk. His heart races. His hands sweat. Heroine leans in, ready to listen…

And an emergency interrupts. Ha ha ha! I’m so mean.

But a reader will have to keep reading, won’t she?

The Almost Touch
A little later in the story, they’re starting to give in to their attraction, yet still not quite sure how the other feels. Heroine trips, landing on her bum. Hero instinctively reaches to help her. Their eyes meet. Heroine’s hand moves toward his. They almost experience their first intentional touch, born of kindness—but then her father (or ex-boyfriend!) swoops in and grabs her hand instead.

So Close, Yet So Far
Emotions are boiling. Heroine aches in loneliness. She’s fought her feelings for so long, she’s weak and lonely, yet still determined to battle. And then, something throws Hero and Heroine together. They’re stuck in a storm, abandoned to an island, locked in an elevator. Oh how the reader longs for them to connect, to admit their feelings, to finally find happiness. But just when it looks like they might—ding ding. The elevator door opens and they’re swooped back into the real world.

End of Act Two Heartbreak
I know it’s formulaic, but it’s so powerful! At the end of Act Two, my characters break up. Something tears them apart with absolutely no hope of reconciliation. Their relationship is dead. My hope is that it’s so dead, readers curse me for leading them all this way only to have Hero and Heroine not end up together.

By now they’re so invested, they can’t help but keep reading. And then, the first scene of Act Three brings a wee hint of hope. (I don’t want my readers too frustrated!)

Are you catching why romance is so fun?

Next week I’ll finish up this series (Lord willing!) with my favorite part of all. (Can you guess what it is?)

Happy writing and God bless!


How do you create suspense in your romance? I’d love to hear!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How to Get Inspired in a Less Than Colorful World by Devin Berglund

There are times when we come to a screeching dead halt in our writing, and we can’t seem to find any inspiration. During the times that we feel empty we look into the world for inspiration and find a world falling apart. We see soldiers fighting in wars across the seas, homeless people on the streets, and starving children in Africa. Then we find ourselves wondering how to get inspired.

I have found myself in this position many times and have wondered, how can I make a difference with my writing anyways? How do I get myself out of this situation? When these questions start to circle around in my mind I have a bad habit of leaving my computer. Which isn’t what I should do. Instead I should pull inspiration out of the un-colorful world. At this moment I can imagine that many questions are forming in your minds, like: “Devin, how do I stay inspired in a less than colorful world? How can I get inspiration when everything else around me is so uninspiring?” or something like, “How can I make color when I have none?”

These are some tough questions, but I do have answers for them. When I find myself in a funk and can’t get inspired I look deeper into the issue. That gives me inspiration and story ideas. With the soldiers who are fighting in wars across the sea, I find myself asking questions.Who are they? What are their stories? Were they married? What are their struggles and emotions? Asking this question actually inspired me when writing the short story “Christy Nelson’s Story” that I wrote for “New Branch of the Journey”.

As soon as I ask myself these questions my mind starts reeling with ideas, thoughts, characters, and plots. I want to make a difference in my reader’s lives and I know you do too. We need to remember that our less than colorful world needs our color, since we add color to the world with our words. Here are some ideas to help draw out inspiration when you don’t feel inspired.

1. Go for a walk in the wilderness
Nature has a way of bringing out the light, when you see all the issues that our world has, you get brought back to how our world should be.

“We can never have enough of nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder-cloud, and the rain.” -Henry David Thoreau

My mom always told me that fresh air clears the mind and she was definitely right, besides you can get heaps of color just by stepping out into the woods. Listen to the sounds. What do you hear? What do you see? Look at all of the details.

2. Delve deeply into other things that will open your mind creatively
Do you practice another form of art? Paint? Music? Dance? Why not try something?

3. Get away from your normal setting
I am living in Brisbane, Australia (a big city if you are not familiar with it). Last weekend my boyfriend and I went to visit his Dad on the Sunshine Coast. We woke up early one morning to watch the sun rise over the Sunshine Coast. Escaping from the city inspires me, because I grew up in the country and was used to nature all around me. Something as small as getting away from your normal settings is a great way to find new ideas for stories, settings, and characters.

4. Get enough sleep
They say if you sleep enough hours in a night, that you will have a better chance of remembering your dreams. Dreams inspire! For one week I went to sleep earlier the night before and woke up earlier to write. I was amazed with how vivid my dreams were and how much easier I remembered them.

5. Get out and volunteer
Seeing good in tough situations can work wonders, it may even give you a new story idea. Use the emotions you see in people as well. Such as the pain in the homeless man’s eyes or the tears that come when you ask him how he is doing.

6. Emotion
Use the emotion you experience. Write about how you feel and how it affects you. You never know when that will help you with a character you are writing later. Keep a journal for this.

7. Silence
Go someplace and seek silence. Light some candles, pray, and meditate. Listen to relaxing music.

8. Take an online journey of inspiring blogs and websites
Check out inspiring pictures or my newest addiction = Pinterest. You can find interesting ideas for characters and settings on there.

9. Read a good book 
Check out

10. Change your outlook
When things are dark, dreary, or uninspiring change your point of view, change your outlook… Look at it from someone else’s shoes. Take a pen and paper someplace to watch people and write down their story or what you think is going on in their lives.

11. Ask yourself the hard questions
Best-selling author, Steven James, once said, “You don’t have a story until you have conflict.” Since we live in a world where conflicting things happen all the time, we must pull inspiration out of the darkness around us by asking ourselves the hard questions. When you know what your character wants then you can find out what will go against your character goals.

12. If you still don’t feel inspired...
Continue to show up and write every day! I try writing 2,000 words a day. There have been a few times that I hadn’t wanted to write, but I made myself. When I read over it later I was surprised with what I’d written!

How about you? What do you do to keep the inspiration flowing?

Devin Berglund is a writer from rural Minnesota. She is currently living in Brisbane, Australia where she is a freelance writer/designer. She majored in English/Mass Communications with a Certificate in Publishing from Minnesota State University of Moorhead. She also designed a book "New Branch of the Journey" with an independent publishing company. The story she was speaking about above is also included in the book. She is currently working on her first full-length novel and can’t wait to start her search for an agent and publisher.

Connect with Devin:
You can follow her on twitter:!/devinberglund

About New Branch of the Journey
“Embark on an adventure with the artists, writers, and photographers from New Branch of the Journey! It is an literary/arts magazine that is thrilled to share stories, experiences, and memories that stir excitement in your life!”

Monday, June 25, 2012

Deep POV: Lesson Four by Karen Witemeyer

We've been enjoying a great series here this month with award-winning author, Karen Witemeyer on deep POV. Here's her final installment this Mixing-it-up-Monday. Enjoy!

Deepen POV by Creating Fresh Comparisons

One of my favorite ways to deepen POV is to create fresh comparisons that are unique to my POV character's personality and background. 

If your hero is a western cowboy, the comparisons that mean something to him will be far different from those of a British nobleman. Similes, metaphors, analogies—all can be given a fresh spin that enhance your character's voice.

This is another aspect of craft that keeps you from getting lazy. Clichés are nearly always the first comparisons to come to mind when we write. Don't accept that easy road. Work to make your analogies unique to your POV character. In doing so, you will deepen the POV and create memorable moments for your reader.


In my latest release, Short-Straw Bride, there is a scene where my rancher hero is admiring the heroine's determination and gumption. Instead of having him observe that determination "stuck to her like glue" (cliché), he instead observed that determination "clung to her like a grass burr to a pant leg."

In my current work in progress, I have three POV characters: the hero, the heroine, and the heroine's father. In one scene, the heroine is racing on horseback to reach her father who is out with the cattle. We are in the father's POV, and as he notes her racing in, he makes a comparison.

Now, as I wrote this scene, the first comparison that came to mind was that she rode as if a pack of wild dogs were on her tail. This, of course, is a cliché. I searched and searched for a better simile. I came up blank. Finally, I dug deeper into who my POV character was. He is an ex-outlaw who's eluded the law for two decades. He's gone straight, but that outlaw blood still runs through his veins. 

As I pondered this character trait, the perfect comparison finally came to mind.

He twisted his neck to the side to work out a kink, and caught sight of his daughter riding down upon them as if a hangin' posse were in pursuit.

Not only does this analogy capture the POV character's personality, but it deepens the POV because that isn't something I as the author would say in narration. But it is exactly what an ex-outlaw would use as a descriptor were he relating the story.

You can practice this on your own. Take a clichéd comparison and rework it with your own character in mind. Here are some to choose from:

Light as a feather
Strong as an ox
Melted like butter
Stubborn as a mule


Short-Straw Bride released June 1, 2012.

No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a lethal plot to burn the Archer brothers off their ranch, a twelve-year-old debt compels her to take the risk.

Fourteen years of constant vigilance hardens a man. Yet when Travis Archer confronts a female trespasser with the same vivid blue eyes as the courageous young girl he once aided, he can't bring himself to send her away. And when an act of sacrifice leaves her injured and her reputation in shreds, gratitude and guilt send him riding to her rescue once again.

Four brothers. Four straws. One bride. Despite the fact that Travis is no longer the gallant youth Meredith once dreamed about, she determines to stand by his side against the enemy that threatens them both. But will love ever be hers? Or will Travis always see her merely as a short-straw bride?


Two-time RITA® Finalist and winner of the coveted HOLT Medallion, CBA bestselling author, Karen Witemeyer, writes historical romance fiction for Bethany House, believing that the world needs more happily-ever-afters. She is an avid cross-stitcher, shower singer, and bakes a mean apple cobbler. Karen makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at:

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Emotion Thesaurus by Vickie McDonough

As we travel on our journey to publication, we may find tools along the way that help us reach our destination. These helpful items can include blogs like this one, workshops, and conferences. There are also wonderful books that may teach various techniques or offer encouragement. Today, author Vickie McDonough shares how one book has been helpful in her writing life. After reading this article, I ordered the book myself! ~ Dawn

The Emotion Thesaurus
by Vickie McDonough

As a writer, it’s important to continue to grow and learn. Publishers’ needs change, as do styles and what’s acceptable and what’s not. When I first started writing, books contained much more description but now, publishers want most books to start with action. I’m a visual person and learn best from workshops, but I’m always looking for other resources to help make my writing better and my characters more realistic. To show and not tell and to find new ways to say the same thing.  Well, I found a doozy of a resource.

For a long while, the Bookshelf Muse at has posted a Character Traits Thesaurus in the sidebar on the right of their blog. I’ve found this an invaluable writing tool. When I needed help developing Brooks Morgan, hero of End of the Trail, book 6 in the Texas Trails series, which released this month, I turned to The Bookshelf Muse. Brooks is a cocky drifter, and The Bookshelf Muse website was a big help in developing this character. Under the Character Thesaurus, click on the word “witty,” and you’re taken to a page with a whole plethora of information about that character trait, such as the definition, causes, examples in literature, and much more. This site has been a huge help as I’ve sculpted my characters—and it’s free. Please note: the Emotion Thesaurus has recently moved to a page of its own:

But now there is something more—The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression—the book. It contains a wealth of info about 75 characteristic traits. The list starts with ‘adoration’ and goes through ‘worry.’ Some others included are:

            And many more.
Maybe you’re wondering why you’d want to buy the book when you can get this information free at the website? Because the book contains much more information about the traits.

Let’s use Brooks as an example again. Brooks laughs a lot and is often amused, especially by the heroine’s actions. The Emotion Thesaurus describes ‘amusement’ as: “appealing to the sense of humor; to feel entertainment or delight.” That’s Brooks to a tee. 

The next section in the book is PHYSICAL SIGNALS and some examples are: 
  • Widening of the eyes 
  • A slack mouth 
  • Becoming suddenly still Sucking in a quick breath 
  • A hand covering one’s mouth           

Can you see how this book is a tool that can help improve your writing and stimulate your creative process? We all have our own favorite phrases to express things, but this book can help you come up with something new—something different. It can help you when you have writer’s block. 

Besides the Definition, each character trait also includes the following information:       
  • Internal sensations
  • Mental responses
  • Cues of acute or long-term __________(name of trait)
  • Cues of suppressed __________(name of trait)

Lots of interesting information, as you can see. And lest you think I have some personal investment in this book, let me assure you that is not the case. I just enjoy sharing useful writing tools with others. One more thing I want to mention about the website, besides a Thesaurus of Character Traits, it also has a Thesaurus of Weather Terms, Settings Terminology, and a Colors Thesaurus. Also, don’t forget to check out their archives for some great information from past blogs.

Whether you’re a new author or you have 50 books published, let me encourage you to never stop learning your craft. Keep improving and finding new ways to say something you’ve said before and be open to learning from someone with a new idea or craft book.

Click to reach Amazon.
Vickie McDonough is the award-winning author of 25 books and novellas. She is a past winner of ACFW’s Genesis Contest and a multiyear finalist in the Carol Award’s. She has been an ACFW member for eleven years and is the ACFW treasurer. Vickie’s latest book, End of the Trail, the sixth book in the Texas Trails series, released this month.

To learn more about Vickie and her books, please visit:
Texas Trails website: