Friday, May 31, 2013

Don’t Quit When Things Get Hard by Janice Cantore

Janice Cantore

Writers deal with a myriad fears. What happens if I don’t get an agent? Or a contract? What if readers love my book? What’s going to be expected of me next? Today, author Janice Cantore offers encouraging words for writers wherever they are in their journey. ~ Dawn

Don’t Quit When 
Things Get Hard

“…Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Eph 4:29 NLT

I just got back from a writer’s conference. I’ve been to many over the years and for some reason this trip brought back memories of a conference I attended when I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I didn’t submit any manuscripts to editors because I didn’t feel ready. (I’d had a bad experience at a previous conference) I roomed with a woman, I forget her name now, who was a little more savvy than I was and who had submitted several pieces to editors for review. 

My roommate was bristling with anticipation, waiting for the return of her manuscripts the day I met her. When she got them back, there were a lot of reactions I expected, but not the one I got. She burst into tears. After a minute she told me that an editor who was talking book contract accepted her story. All of her dreams were coming true.

Why are you crying, I asked. She said it was because she didn’t know how to handle everything she ever wanted coming true. She then packed up her things and left the conference 2 days early. I don’t know if she was published and lived happily ever after or not.

I too dreamed of a book contract and of being a published author and I was certain I would not burst into tears and freak out if it ever happened. A few years later I was certain my dream would never come true. I had become a published author with a small print on demand publisher and I was grateful. But I learned that selling a novel was way harder than writing one. With no platform and no idea how to build one people were not exactly beating down the door to buy my book.

One morning after my devotions I felt particularly defeated. I remember sitting in a chair, head in hands, praying, “Lord, if not writing what?” I was certain my writing career was over and I was ready to quit, to stop banging my head against a wall. But, God is good. A few days later my publisher called. She had an agent friend who read my POD book and wanted to talk to me, was that okay? I figured I had nothing to lose, so I said yes. To make a long story short, I signed with that agent and a month later we had a three-book contract.

All my dreams came true! Did I burst into tears and freak out? Nope, I thanked God and signed the contract, knowing full well that the hard work was just beginning. This writing life is fun, frustrating, and what I always wanted. I’ve known tremendous disappointments and soaring victories. I’m glad I didn’t quit, and to anyone out there struggling, if this is your dream, stick with it. And you can even freak out when you realize your dream, just don’t quit because things are sometimes hard.

Click to reach Amazon.


When Officer Carly Edwards finds three young gangbangers shot execution style, she and her husband, Sergeant Nick Anderson, head of the gang unit, fear Las Playas may be on the verge of a gang war. The Las Playas PD is put on high alert as tensions escalate between rival gangs, especially after Carly confiscates weapons from a gang leader and learns they were stolen from a military base along with explosive devices.

But something isn’t adding up, and Carly suspects there might be more going on. As she prepares to testify at a major trial, Carly’s reputation is shredded by a reporter apparently trying to discredit her professionally. Facing pressure on all fronts, Carly must rely on faith and trust God in a deeper way during one of the biggest struggles of her career.

A retired Long Beach California police officer of 22 years (16 in uniform and 6 as a non-career officer), Janice Cantore worked a variety of assignments, patrol, administration, juvenile investigations and training. During the course of her career in uniform Janice found that faith was indispensable to every aspect of the job and published articles on faith at work, one for a quarterly newspaper called “Cop and Christ”, and another for the monthly magazine “Today’s Christian Woman”.

With retirement Janice began to write longer pieces and several novels were born. Janice is excited and honored to now be a part of the Tyndale Publishing House family. Accused, the first installment in her new suspense offering, The Pacific Coast Justice Series, was released February 1, 2012 and kicked off a brand new chapter in her writing career. Abducted followed in July 2012 and Avenged, the third installment was released April 1, 2013. In addition to suspense and action, her books feature strong female leads. Janice writes suspense novels designed to keep you engrossed and leave you inspired.

To learn more, please visit:

Thursday, May 30, 2013

This Writer's Life by Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson
In our recent survey, our readers responded with a resounding plea for more posts about a writer's life. Here's a glimpse into Jennifer Johnson's life. Hope you enjoy! ~Dora

What distracts you from writing the easiest, Jennifer?
Hmm…life! I have a husband, who tends to lose things...he’s a terrific guy, though. I love you, Al. I have three daughters. The oldest is newly-married and student teaching. She’s in meltdown mode at least three times a week. My second daughter is just walking drama of disaster. God loves that child and so do I, but whew that girl can wear a momma out. My youngest is a freshman who enjoys being chauffeured from one thing to the other, and who also shares her heart with her mommy quite often. Note: I’m very thankful my girls will talk to me.

Outside of family, I teach 150 6th graders a day. Now that’s a distraction. I also tend to like to play Ruzzle, Family Feud, SongPop, and Pics & Words. And I’m a Walking Dead, Criminal Minds, Duck Dynasty, and American Idol junkie. I suppose I’ve been known to get caught up in Good Luck, Charlie- love that mom, Reba, and a few of the other shows my girls suck me into watching. I’m telling you, it’s all their faults.

Are there things you put off doing because you dread them?
Write proposals- This makes me laugh, but the truth is writing a synopsis is like pulling teeth. Just let me write the story already. Unless it’s something I want to do, I’m a habitual procrastinator. Not a very disciplined girl.

Do you prefer to weave in spiritual themes? 
YES! I love to write about God’s faithfulness and mercy, and that He can use us no matter how we’ve sinned and no matter what sins have been done to us. We live in a world that for the most part bows to the wrong master. As a result, we mess up, even after accepting Christ as our Savior, we mess up. And sometimes evil affects us, even when we’re doing nothing wrong.

God-fearing men and women have affairs, get hooked on drugs, steal, lie, cheat…they do things we can’t believe…and we talk about them. Children are abused. People are killed in accidents. Evil abounds. None of us are immune.
Can I give you an answer WHY some of these things are allowed, how a sovereign God would be willing to see those things happen? I can’t. What I can say is that we serve a good God. One who has a plan for our lives, who offers rest and comfort for the weary, who will save us from ourselves and this world, who will use everything that’s happened for GOOD to those who love and trust Him.

What brings a smile to your writer's heart?
I love when God does something and then shows me. For example, one time I sent a card to a church friend. I just kept feeling the Spirit’s pressure to send her a note about how much I loved her. Well, I mailed that letter and come to find out she received it on her deceased husband’s birthday…the very first birthday she spent without him. I didn’t know it was his birthday. I was just obeying the spirit to uplift a friend. It was very cool, and just made me smile again.
Dora here. Now it's your turn. 

What distractions pull you away from your writing?

Friends Nick Martin, Drew Wilson, and Mike McCauley are betting on love—and the last man left single wins.
Bluegrass Bachelors
Purchase Link

With Nick’s competitive, determined nature, winning should be easy. After all, he managed to pay off his land debts before her turned thirty—ahead of schedule. But Nick didn’t count on Addy Wilson returning to town. Now, with the risk of losing love, are the stakes too high?

While his friends may succumb to wedding vows, Drew is sure he won’t. And Melody Markwell only confirms his resolve. She’s hard-headed, competitive…too much like himself. So why does Drew suddenly feel that winning her heart is worth losing the bet?

Mike has waited for this moment for years. But now that he finally gets a chance to take the girl he’s been pining over on a date, he’s let down. Then to his annoyance, clumsy Johanna Smith keeps running into him—literally. Is this God’s way of getting his attention?

All bets are off, but will these bluegrass bachelors give in to love?

Jennifer Johnson and the world’s most supportive husband have been married for over two decades. They’ve been blessed to raise three amazing daughters and recently added a terrific son-in-law to the crew. Jennifer teaches 6th grade writing at her local middle school. She has seventeen published novels and one novella. When she isn’t writing or teaching, she enjoys shopping and watching movies with her family, going to dinner with her best friend, and brainstorming slumber parties with her writing buddies. She loves to hear from readers. You can reach her at or

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Are You An Oddball Writer?

This is the fifth Wednesday of the month and a free-for-all day---one I’ve reserved for posting myself. Today, I’m going to talk about pulling weeds. 
There's an Autumn Fern in there somewhere.

You might think: What does pulling weeds have to do with writing?

A weed is simply a plant growing in a spot where it’s not wanted. Springtime brings buckets of them and mindless hours spent ridding a garden of their presence.

You probably think: Aha! It’s an analogy for pulling out those weedy words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or scenes from your story.

Um...that's true, but a post for another time. This is, literally, about pulling weeds—and how it can boost your creativity.

You finally think: Yes! I knew there had to be a writing connection. After all, this isn’t a gardening blog.

As one who finds joy in gardening, I chomp at the bit to get outside in the spring and start digging in the dirt. Honestly, you should see my fingernails from April through June.

But who, in their right mind, enjoys weeding? Most people find the job to be menial, back-breaking labor, so they spray the invaders until they shrivel up and die. Not me. I like getting on all fours and yanking them right out of the ground—one little, ole trespasser at a time. Does that make me an oddball gardener?

Let’s face it, grabbing hold and ripping out a weed isn’t brain surgery. The only real thinking comes in making sure you don’t rip out a good plant by mistake. (Hmmm…another good editing analogy.)

For a writer, a task like weeding allows plenty of time for brainstorming. My mind wanders to the story I’m working on and how I’m going to get my heroine out of a nasty pickle, or to making a list of marketing ideas for when I’ll need them, or to planning a blog post. It may mean daydreaming a whole new story idea. Whatever I’m working on, it’s a source of quiet time to think while accomplishing another responsibility. It’s creative multi-tasking.

Creativity Complete
I’m not saying you have to plant a garden to be creative, but we all have responsibilities and tasks in our daily lives, away from the computer, that provide opportunities to think and be creative. 

So, what do you think? What is the oddest job you do that lets your mind wander and gets those creative juices flowing? What makes you an oddball writer?

(And, yes, I did write this blog post in my head while pulling weeds.) 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Random Thoughts & Ideas to Spark Your Fiction Writing By Creston Mapes

A friend sent me six pages of his new novel. He wanted to get my feedback. I don’t have time to do this much anymore, but I owed him. I read the first six pages of his first attempt at fiction without taking any notes. Then I stuffed it in a book and am still letting it simmer.

Here’s what I need to tell him, and I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and share some of these insights with you, too.

  • The story needs to begin right in the middle of an intriguing, tension-filled moment. Pick right up smack dab in the middle of the situation. Back story can come later, if at all. Who the characters are can come later. What they look like can come later. You must quarantine the reader in the first few pages of the book or you’ve lost him.

    On about page four of my friend’s manuscript, there was finally some dialogue and some conflict. “That is where his book needs to start!” I said aloud. The details can come later! His first four pages were all back story. Granted, those pages included a bunch of good ideas and it will all make for a good book. But all of that back story needs to be shown, not told, as the story unfolds. That brings me to my next point.
  • Please, please, show and do not tell, because if you tell, no serious fiction editors are going to want to publish your book. This might take you awhile to learn, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes habit.

    Which gives the reader a better, more vivid and emotional picture of what the character is doing and feeling:

    He was nervous and thought about just leaving.


    He drummed his fingers on the table, checked his watch and scanned the room to see if anyone would notice if he disappeared.

    The later shows. The former tells.

    The whole book needs to show. Just work a sentence at a time, showing. Soon you’ll have the hang of it. And keep adding new things. Don’t just keep rehashing the same old plot. Keep the story alive with new twists and turns that put readers on the edge of their seats.

    As for the back story you wanted to include right up front…much of that can be woven in later, throughout the manuscript, as you are showing the reader what happens, like a mesmerizing movie on the big screen.
  • Write from one point of view (POV) at a time.

    I need to tell my friend that he needs to choose one character and to write from that character’s POV for the entire scene or chapter, then switch to another character’s POV. It’s as if you are that character and you are standing behind a video camera. You can see and hear what’s going on around you, but you cannot read other peoples’ minds. You can only write about what you see and hear and what you taste and smell.

    There will be more than one POV character. In the novel I’m writing now, I’m writing different scenes and chapters from the POV of 5-7 different characters. It’s a whole lot of fun getting into the mind of a bossy female antagonist, or in the head of an unsuspecting villain, or in the POV of a modern day hero. Again, get POV down and you’ll have mastered one of the top requirements in writing publishable fiction.
  • Avoid clich├ęs.

    Create unique names. Some of the favorites in my novels have included Everett Lester, Twila Yonder, Zane Bender, Gray Harris, Chester Holte, Hudson Ambrose, and Granger Meade. This is important. It sets your book and characters apart.

    Create unique storylines. If it’s been done too often and we can predict what’s going to happen, as they say in the Bronx, forgetaboutit! When you’re at a turning point in the book, think up five to seven options of what could happen, and choose the most flabbergasting one! Remember, tension on every page is what you want to keep pulling the reader along with you!
  • Don’t write too much.

    I’ve passed my 500 word limit!

I hope you’ll read my thrillers and connect with me via my website, Twitter or Facebook.
About the Author

Creston Mapes is the author of Fear Has a Name, NobodyDark Star, and Full Tilt. A journalist, copywriter, and editor, he works from his home-office in Atlanta for some of the nation’s top media companies, Christian ministries, and nationally-recognized corporations. His early years as a reporter inspire many of his novels. Creston studied journalism at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and began his writing career 30 years ago. 

How Far Would He Go To Keep Them Safe?
It was more than a break-in. More than a stalking. It was personal. When a stalker targets his family, journalist Jack Crittendon must uncover who the person is and what his motives are—if he is to protect the ones he loves. It will lead Crittendon into a world of behind-closed-door secrets and faith gone awry, as does his investigation of a missing pastor, whose apparent suicide is more than it appears. Each move Crittendon makes weaves him tighter and tighter into a web of lies, greed, hypocrisy, sin, and danger. He believed he’d never give in to feareHAnd it leads to. But that was before. And holding on to his faith won’t be easy. Nor will keeping his family safe, and ending the terror. Because that might require him to step over lines he never dared to cross.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy Memorial Day

To those who gave a part, most, or all of their lives to keep our country free -- including the freedom to write and worship as we wish -- the team at Seriously Write would like to say,

"Thank you."

Did you or a member of your family service in the military? If so, please let us know. Comment below with your (or your loved one's) name and branch of the military. And, if you're able, give them a hug from us.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Being Open to Change on the Road to Publication by Amy Lillard

Amy Lillard
We’re told to write the stories of our hearts, but also be aware of market trends. Can we have it both ways? Author Amy Lillard shares how being open to change helped her become a published author—and how she found fulfillment in that change. 
~ Dawn

Being Open to Change on the Road to Publication

If you had told me five years ago that today I would be writing Amish romance I would have scoffed. “Amish? Well, they are interesting and unique, but romance? I write contemporary romantic comedies. Not books about the Amish.”

And yet here I am. I just signed my second contract for a trilogy of stories all about the Amish. And romance of course. Even though this is where I have landed, it’s not where I started.

So how did I get from contemporary rom-coms to sweet-sweet Amish romance? By being open to change.

It all started one fall day about a year after I had signed with my agent. She had read my screwball romantic comedy set in Tennessee. She shopped it around with no buyers even as I started a new book, a new series.

It had been a while that she had been trying to sell my novel, long enough that I had lost track to all the places where she had sent it, all the editors and houses that had turned us down. Trying to get a handle on the possibilities that it might have, I called her office to find out which, if any, houses still had my book.

Honestly, I expected to get her assistant on the phone. She would tell me that she would have my agent get back to me. But when I made contact, my agent was on the line. We talked for a while, then she finally said, “There’s nothing wrong with your writing; it’s what you are writing. I’ll tell you what you should be writing, but you’ll laugh.” I promised her emphatically that I would not laugh. She said Amish romance. And I laughed.

But after a trip to the local Christian bookstore, I stopped laughing. Women were nudging me out of the way to get to these books all written about the Amish. So I bought a few for myself to see what the buzz was about.

Two weeks later, I started my series. A year after that, I signed my first contract.

I won’t tell you that it was easy. I shifted sub-genres and went from mainstream romance to Christian stories. Was the change worth it? Absolutely! I still write romance—my one true writing love. I still work humor into my stories.

But my writing has become even more fulfilling to me. Now my stories can be read by generations. I write about God-loving people who live a simple life that most of us can only imagine.
I can’t say that switching genres is right for every writer. And certainly, I can’t recommend that everyone stop all projects and begin a book about the Amish. But I will say, be open. You never know what’s waiting around the next bend.

Five years ago I could not have imagined writing Amish romance, but I am so glad I took a chance and did.

Katie’s Choice
Katie's Choice

Katie Rose Fisher loved Samuel Beachy with an intensity that shook their Amish district. No one doubted they would one day marry, until Samuel turned his back on the church and joined the world of the English. Alone now in Clover Ridge, Katie Rose dedicates her life to God and the school children she teaches each day. Although she secretly longs for more, Katie knows God’s hand is at work, and she is happy.

News correspondent Zane Carson never even knew Oklahoma had an Amish community until he got the chance to live among them and learn about their day-to-day activities. Their simple way of life is intriguing, but not half as much as the young teacher.

Katie Rose is flattered over the attention she receives from Zane, but she has resolved to never marry. Even if she were to entertain the idea, it surely couldn’t be with an outsider like Zane. Never one prone to the restraints of organized religion, Zane finds a comfort in the rituals and blessings in the day to day righteous living of this small Amish community. He finds himself, God, and love with Katie Rose.

But as Zane draws closer to Katie Rose, Samuel comes back to repent his ways and return to his place at her side. Can Zane convince Katie Rose that he is committed to adapting to her way of life, or will Samuel win her affec- tions back for himself once again?

From Amy Lillard . . .

I'm a wife, mother, and bona fide Southern belle. Published author, expert corn bread maker, and Squirrel Princess.

I live in Tulsa, though I was born in Mississippi. I moved to the Sooner State when I was seventeen and met my soul mate and best friend not long after. Rob and I have been married for over twenty years and have a son--a mom proclaimed prodigy, of course! I love homemade tacos, shoes, and romance novels—not necessarily in that order. I'm a big fan of country music, a staunch proponent of saving the Oxford comma, and I'm shamefully obsessed with all things Harry Potter.

To learn more, please visit:

Amy Lillard ~ Author