Friday, January 30, 2015

The Lens of Hindsight by Brandy Vallance

Brandy Vallance

Brandy’s article came at the perfect moment. I'd had several challenging weeks. Though I’d blocked out large chunks of time to write, unexpected needs had taken priority. You know how it goes. I was beginning to feel anxious because precious writing time kept slipping from my grasp. Experiencing the same thing? Read on! ~ Dawn

The Lens of Hindsight
Hindsight is 20/20, but when you’re going through something, it’s hard to connect the dots. As a writer, sometimes those dots are even harder to connect. Struggles are in abundance and discouragement beats on your door with a vengeance. Every day you have to make the choice to sit in the chair. One of the lessons I’ve had to learn is how to give myself grace.

Looking back on my journey to seeing my first book published, there were a lot of detours. But when you look at those detours in the lens of hindsight, events come into focus. There was a lot of learning that I needed to do, and it takes time to develop a thick skin. In order to write a story that has depth, the author has to go through some things.

I know. I’m cringing at my own statement. This is the part we don’t like. But when I think about my eleven drafts of The Covered Deep, I also think about the corresponding seasons in my life. As time passed, I could see a little more clearly. To each draft I was able to bring a little something more.

It’s hard to be patient with yourself when you’re a writer. There are a lot of voices around you that tend to push. Why do you write when there is no contract in sight? Aren’t you finished with that book yet? Etc. 

There is a really brilliant passage from The Thirteenth Tale, which has stuck with me:

“All my life and all my experience, the events that have befallen me, the people I have known, all my memories, dreams, fantasies, everything I have ever read, all of that has been chucked onto the compost heap, where over time it has rotted down to a dark, rich, organic mulch. The process of cellular breakdown makes it unrecognizable. Other people call it the imagination. I think of it as a compost heap. Every so often I take an idea, plant it in the compost, and wait. It feeds on the black stuff that used to be a life, takes its energy for its own. It germinates. Takes root. Produces shoots. And so on and so forth, until one fine day I have a story, or a novel . . . Readers are fools. They believe all writing is autobiographical. And so it is, but not in the way they think. The writer's life needs time to rot away before it can be used to nourish a work of fiction. It must be allowed to decay.”

If I could talk to the old me—say fourteen years ago—I’d speak some grace into the striving. I’d tell myself to worry less. And if I could do anything for you, it would probably be the same.

You have a choice. Don’t let the “I’m not published yet” thing affect your self-worth. You are of immeasurable value and there is only one person who can write that story that begs to be told. Only you have the experiences, emotions, and heart that will be needed. This journey is far more important than you think. It is changing you for the better. It is changing your story.

So yes, work hard. But give yourself some grace on the days when the word count just won’t come. And when that appointment with that editor or agent doesn’t work out, take a deep breath and trust in God’s larger plan. And when life is overwhelming and you just don’t see how being a writer fits in, have faith that He who has called you to this wild and wonderful task will give you all the pieces when it’s time.

Until then, let your heart grow as your words do. Be brave and live beautifully. And when you look back through the lens of hindsight, I hope you’ll be able to feel a sense of rightness.

Give yourself grace. Dream like crazy. One day at a time.


Bianca Marshal is looking for a man who can quote both Jesus and Shakespeare. Not surprisingly, that man is hard to find in the small Appalachian town where she lives. Her mother insists that Bianca lower her standards. One the eve of her twenty-fifth birthday, even Bianca wonders if her mother is right.

Still set on experiencing love, or at least a little adventure, Bianca wins an essay contest that propels her into a whirlwind search for the perfect hero. Via the opulence of London and the mysteries of Palestine, Bianca's true love will be revealed—but not without a price that might be too heavy to pay.

Brandy Vallance fell in love with the Victorian time period at a young age, loving the customs, manners, and especially the intricate rules of love. Since time travel is theoretically impossible, she lives in the nineteenth century vicariously through her novels. Unaccountable amounts of black tea have fueled this ambition. Brandy's love of tea can only be paralleled by her love of Masterpiece Theater Classics, deep conversations, and a good book. Brandy is the 2013 Operation First Novel winner and the 2012 winner of the ACFW Genesis Contest for historical romance.

To learn more and connect with Brandy, please visit these online sites:

Twitter: @BrandyVallance

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Authors of the Times by Linda Yezak

Linda Yezak
Recently, I took Beth Moore's nine-week study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians. I’ll always remember this part:

Each day the sun comes up closer to the dawn of Christ's coming. If the Word of the Lord needed to speed ahead in Paul's generation, how expeditious should it be in ours? These are days for deliberate acceleration. We have wheels. We have wings. We have ways. We have means. At least for now, many of us also have freedom of speech (Children of the Day, page 196).

And should that freedom be withdrawn, Beth says, we have the assurance of 2 Timothy 2:9 "the word of God is not chained."

I got to thinking about our call to get the gospel out and how urgent the need is. Most of us are aware of the times we’re in because we’ve been instructed to watch. Because we’re aware, we’re bracing ourselves. Are we heading for Armageddon? No. That's not for a while yet. But I feel like the trumpets will soon blast, and things are going to get rough here on Earth.

And, I got to thinking of myself and my role as writer, who I write to, and whether I should shift from backsliders to nonbelievers. Getting the Word out seems so vital now, and those who are called to address the nonbelievers have such a pressing duty that I wondered whether I was supposed to join their ranks.

My answer came: No.

In the perilous times to come, all of us are needed. Writers whose works are intended for believers are crucial. These precious authors inspire, encourage, uplift Christians who already understand the parable of the fig tree. They already know their salvation is nigh.

Authors who address their works to the backsliders are vital, too. These are the ones who bring the lambs back into the fold. The ones who proclaim God's forgiveness for whatever sin or rift that caused them to separate themselves, and call them to come home.

Don't get me wrong: none of us escape the responsibility of the great commission. We are to called to spread God's message. This duty falls upon the shoulders of every person declaring him- or herself to be a Christian. But our calling as individual authors may be different. Perhaps we were indeed called to address the unbeliever or answer the seekers, or perhaps we were called to bring our own back into God's arms, or maybe we were called to encourage and guide those already in the faith. Whatever our individual calling, that calling is still critical, even as the seals snap open and the angels prepare their horns.

So, "let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith..." (Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJ).

Purchase Link
Emily Taylor loves to help people, loves to ease their burdens and make their dreams come true. But when a conman ruins her reputation, she discovers that helping others is safer and easier from behind the scenes. 

When one of Emily’s gifts captures the attention of an avid journalist, her identity as the town’s anonymous benefactor—and her renewed relationship with her high school sweetheart—are threatened. 

As her private life begins to unravel, she realizes the one hope for regaining control lies behind prison walls.

Over twenty years ago, after a decade of life as a "single-again," author Linda Yezak rediscovered God's love and forgiveness when He allowed her a second chance at marital happiness. She is now living her greatest romance with her husband in a forest in East Texas. After such an amazing blessing, she chooses to trumpet God's gift of second chances in the books she writes. Linda's novels are heart-warming hallmarks of love, forgiveness, and new beginnings.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Tax Deductions for Writers by Donna Goodrich

Whether we like it or not, it's that time of year again when we need to gather up those receipts and deposits that prove our writing expenses and income. Today, author Donna Goodrich gives us a list of various allowances available for writers. -- Sandy

DonnaAs a writer, you’re considered a self-employed person, and thus you will have to show all your income on a Schedule C. However, to offset this income, you can take the following deductions. NOTE: Even if you have a CPA or other professional prepare your taxes, it’s up to you to keep good records using Quicken or another program that works for you.

  • Advertising (business cards, brochures, fliers)
  • Bad debts (if someone has owed you for more than two years, and you can show proofof trying to collect it.
  • Car expenses (can take actual expenses prorated, or mileage deduction allowed by IRS. Keep track of all your miles—anything connected with writing.
  • Commissions—agent, etc..
  • Depreciation—office equipment that cost over $100 and is expected to last over a year. (This can be taken over several years or all the first year.)
  • Insurance—on rented office; or if you have an office in the home, you can take a portion of theinsurance.
  • Interest—credit card used solely for your business, i.e., office supply store or airline.
  • Legal & professional expenses—portion of tax preparation re: self-employment; if you pay someone to look over a contract, or to try to collect money owed you.
  • Office expense—anything you do to your office, i.e., decorating, repairs (carpet, drapes), etc.
  • Rent or lease—business equipment. However; if you end up buying the equipment then you may have to go back to the first year and show depreciation for the time you had it.
  • Repairs and maintenance—repairs on your equipment, or a maintenance agreement.
  • Supplies—office supplies (buy two sets—one for business, one for household).
  • Taxes and licenses—related to your business.
  • Travel—plane tickets, rental cars, cab fares, parking fees, tolls, etc.
  • Meals and entertainment—taking a writer to dinner, baseball game, concert, etc., or your own meals if you stay overnight.
  • Utilities—for a rented office, or if you have an office in your home, you can prorate your utilities.

(The above deductions are placed line by line on your Schedule C. Those listed below are miscellaneous deductions that go on Part V—Other Expenses. You may have more. These are just some I deduct every year.)

  • Postage
  • Telephone (landline only if you have a separate business line. Otherwise, you can deduct such things as Call Waiting, conference calls, long distance calls, cell phone [prorated] and don’t forget your Internet fees.)
  • Books and publications—magazines you buy at newsstands or subscribe to for possible markets, or a newspaper you take solely for business.
  • Printing and copies
  • Cards and gifts
  • Bank charges
  • Camera/tape recorder (prorate if you also use them for personal use. Don’t forget repairs.)
  • Subcontracting—If you pay someone to type or do research
  • Dues for business clubs
  • Loss—I sometimes have a loss on books sold 

If you have a home office, you can also prorate deductions on such things as landscaping, repairs (air conditioning/heating), exterminating, carpet cleaning, real estate taxes, interest and house insurance, plus depreciation. This gets sticky, so talk to someone before deducting a home office.

The Bible says to “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21 kjv). Filing your income tax is required by law, but why pay more than you have to? Keeping good records and deducting what the government allows will help you be a better steward of the income you’ve received by spreading the gospel though the printed word. 

Have you found legitimate deductions to add to this list? Will you share your favorite method for keeping records.


The author of 24 books and over 700 published manuscripts, including A Step in the WriteDirection—the Complete How-to Book for Christian Writers, Donna Clark Goodrich lives inMesaArizona, with her husband Gary. Also a freelance proofreader/editor and speaker, she enjoys helping beginning writers get started and encouraging advanced writers not to give up. Contact her at or She also blogs every Monday at:

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Rules vs. Tools by Deborah Raney

Deborah Raney
Chances are, if you’ve attended more than a handful of workshops on the craft of writing, you’ve come away with your head spinning with new “rules and regulations” about how to write correctly. Worse, you’ve probably received conflicting advice from instructors you admire and respect equally.

Or perhaps you’re one of those rebels who don’t like rules. Besides, you say, readers don’t care about the so-called rules, or the craft of writing! They just want a rip-roaring good story.

Saying readers don't care about craft is like saying airline passengers don't care about aerodynamics. They do care, they simply trust that the person responsible for their particular flight knows how to harness aerodynamics in a way that allows them to enjoy the ride without giving a thought to aerodynamics.

Robert McKee, author of Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting says this:
"Story is about principles, not rules. A rule says, 'You must do it this way.' A principle says, 'This works…and has through all remembered time.' The difference is crucial. … Anxious, inexperienced writers obey rules. Rebellious, unschooled writers break rules. Artists master the form."

You’ve probably heard it said that you must know the rules before you can break them. I believe many of the current conventions of writing––no-head-hopping, show-don't-tell, "invisible" attributions, judicious use of adverbs and adjectives, and the myriad other so-called rules of writing––are in fact the principles, of which McKee speaks. They’ve become “rules” because they are a means to the end of writing a story that engages readers and keeps the pages turning.

The no-head-hopping rule keeps the reader from being confused and allows her to go deep in one POV––the one deemed most important by the author––thus developing characterization and reader engagement.

The show-don't-tell rule turns a "story" into a film-like experience, setting the stage and giving the details of a scene in a way that makes the reader feel she is actually involved in the story.

The invisible attributions rule (get rid of attributions where possible; prefer said over retorted, exclaimed, etc.) helps the dialogue read more like a script, again, putting the scene onstage and, more importantly, forcing the author to write dialogue a reader can't help but "hear" with the right inflection. Minimizing attributions also allows for more beats, so the reader can more easily picture the action of the scene.

Judicious use of adverbs and adjectives forces the writer to use more active and specific verbs (which in turn, improves vocabulary and avoids repetition and redundancy.)

The rules of writing could more accurately be called tools of writing. As with any craft, when you are first learning to use the tools, they make the job a thousand times more difficult. But once you’ve mastered the tools, they make your job as a craftsman—and as a writer—infinitely easier. Because every legitimate writing "rule" exists for one reason: to help the writer accomplish what readers DO care about––a compelling story full of characters they care deeply about.

So instead of letting the rules of writing––and the contradicting advice you’re bound to encounter––bog you down, instead view those rules as tools of the craft. Some will serve you well, others you’ll purposefully choose to ignore, and a few you’ll use in creative ways that work perfectly for you. Because that’s what artists do.
About the Author
DEBORAH RANEY's first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched her writing career after twenty happy years as a stay-at-home mom. She is currently writing a new five-book series, the The Chicory Inn Novels. Deb and her husband, Ken Raney, recently traded small-town life in Kansas––the setting of many of Deb's novels––for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita. They love traveling to visit four children and five grandchildren who all live much too far away. Deb loves to connect with her readers at:


What will happen when novelist Madeleine Houser’s “pen pal” friendship with a lonely
A January Bride by Deborah Raney
widower takes an unexpected turn?

Who can work in a house that's overrun by contractors and carpenters? Not Madeleine Houser, a successful novelist who gladly accepts the help of her octogenarian friend, Ginny, to arrange for a temporary office in the charming bed and breakfast owned by Ginny's friend, Arthur. Maddie’s never met the innkeeper—but a friendship grows between them as Maddie and Arthur leave messages for each other each day. To Maddie’s alternate delight and chagrin, she seems to be falling for the inn’s owner—a man who's likely many years her senior—and who she’s never even met.

Arthur Tyler is a college professor who lost his young wife to cancer. Together they ran the bed and breakfast where Art lives, but without his wife, the house is missing warmth and cheer. He jumps at the chance to have author Madeleine Houser use the space that was once filled with guests. He, too, begins to enjoy the daily exchanges with Maddie, but a series of misunderstandings lead him to believe she’s far from being a prospective date—even if he were ready to date again, which he’s not.

When Maddie and Art finally meet and discover one another’s identity, sparks fly. Even so, they each have obstacles to overcome in order for this winter romance to blossom.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Writing to Praise

Writing to Praise
By Mary Manners
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.
                                             ~ Psalm 86:12 ~

Often during the course of conversation the inevitable question arises, “How long have you been writing?” Well, I’m quick to respond that I was born this way…with a pencil in my hand.
I cannot remember a time when I didn’t write. In fact, my earliest memory consists of me sitting on the floor beside the washing machine in my family’s laundry room and scribbling (I didn’t yet know how to read or form words, but I could certainly scratch across the paper) because I had a story in my head that just had to come out and be shared.
Since that day, I have never stopped writing. To me, writing is as essential to life as breathing. I am convinced that, prior to the use of my trusty laptop, I killed a forest of trees on my quest to record all of the stories woven through my brain and my heart.

My life journey has led me to many destinations, including a three-decade career in education. I first spent several years working with special needs children before settling into teaching middle school math (go figure…the writer teaching algebra and loving it) and am currently seated as an intermediate school principal with six-hundred adorable and rambunctious children in my care. Add to that a loyal husband and beautiful daughter, and to say I juggle daily responsibilities is a gross understatement. But, what’s life without a boxcar’s worth of adventure tossed into the mix?

So, when do I manage to write? I pen my stories in the morning, when the rest of the world is sleeping and at night…when the rest of the world is sleeping. My official work day begins at six-thirty, so I wake at three to write. My day-job ends at five (on a good day) and I’m happy to say my husband loves football so following a daily walk together and then dinner, I write while he yells at the TV. We have fun while we make it work and I’m blessed by his support.
All joking aside, God has been good to me and I pray that my writing glorifies Him. Each of my stories is based on a Bible verse, and I strive to share the message of hope and grace in all I write. Does that mean my characters never struggle? No. Does it mean they are human? Yes (um, really…they are). Does it mean through God all things are possible? Yes, I truly believe it is so.
So, I write and I will continue writing as long as I am breathing. After all, the two go hand-in-hand.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Mary Manners is an award-winning romance writer who lives in the beautiful foothills of East Tennessee with her husband Tim and daughter Danni, and the cherished cats they've rescued from local animal shelters...Lucky and Gus. She loves flavored coffee and Smoky Mountain sunsets.
Mary was named Author of the Year by Book and Trailer Showcase. She writes inspirational romances of all lengths, from short stories to novels—something for everyone.
Learn more about Mary Manners at her website:
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Broken dreams...shattered hearts...a special recipe...

Following the tragic, sudden death of her parents, Kate Spencer broke off her engagement from high school sweetheart Logan Daniels, just weeks before their wedding. She chose, instead, to remain in Mount Ridge, Tennessee to raise her younger sisters and help keep the family together. Now, with her sisters grown, she spends her days at family-owned Sweet Treats Bakery, hiding a wounded heart in the sweet confections she creates. Logan Daniels left town when Kate broke his heart, but now he's come home to claim what he lost four years ago, and he won't stop until he gets what he came for...Kate's kisses.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Writing with the Heart of God by C. Kevin Thompson

C. Kevin Thompson

“Why Write?”

Ever muttered those words to yourself?

“I’ve been writing for years now. Yet, my Twitter followers are few and far-between compared to secular writers. If only I had 67.2K like James Patterson.”

Ever think those kinds of thoughts?

“My Facebook friends seem fickle and flighty. When I post about a new blog entry or a new book, they say they ‘like’ my posts, but few ever say they actually read it. Hardly any of them comment on it.”

Ever wonder about these things?

If you allow yourself, it’s easy, as a writer, to throw a pity party. Every profession has their pity party planners. They circle the wagons often, making sure they encapsulate every other like-minded party goer, who can pat them on the back and “encourage them” in their defeated, idiomatic existence. I’m an educator. There are many pity party planners right now in the teaching ranks. You think you have it tough as a writer?

Yet, as I shift gears into 2015 and rethink some of my writing plans, I have been wondering how God would have fared if He approached things the way we do.

In the beginning, He writes the first set of organized words for His people in Exodus 20. Within days, those “books” are literally destroyed by His distributor, Moses (Exodus 32). So, He has to have them reprinted (Exodus 34).

Once those writings were distributed to the people, they are first met with hoopla and holiday spirit (Exodus 35-40). However, it didn’t take long for those same words to become despised, ignored, and eventually forgotten (Numbers 11 is where it all starts).

God’s readership sank to the bottom of the “Mesopotamian Booksellers Hot Releases List” time and time again. For decades, while in captivity, God’s Word was nowhere to be found in Babylon or Assyria. It finally was unearthed by Hilkiah the priest under the reign of Josiah in 2 Kings 22 (also, 2 Chronicles 34) after the Hebrews had been back in the Promised Land for some time under the reign of Hezekiah.

On and on the story goes. God’s first book, in the beginning, wasn’t very popular. Yet, did God give up? Of course not. Even when it went “out of print,” He never gave up. Why? Because He believed in what He wrote. That’s why He wrote the sequel (the New Testament).

He knew these two “books” would change lives.

For eternity.

Do you write to change lives for eternity? If so, then don’t be surprised if you’re not “popular” in this anti-God, anti-Christian world which grows increasingly darker with each passing day. There weren’t too many people getting “saved” as the Israelites were being hauled off to Babylon and Assyria. As the Romans swept across the Sinai Peninsula and descended into what is now North Africa, the “books” still languished in “sales.” When the sequel went into print, then the “sales” improved.

So, don’t walk away from your computer downtrodden because you only gained ten Twitter followers this week and lost four. It took God a long while before His writing plan “took off,” too.

Don’t give up. Write with the heart of God, and He will reward your faithfulness in the places it matters most (Matthew 6:33).

Something ominous lurks under the waters.

Dr. Evelyn Sims, a brilliant marine biologist, is being watched. Her husband's mysterious death at sea—with the only survivor of the Greenback telling a shocking, unbelievable tale—has thrown her personal life into chaos. Her scientific views are being scrutinized. Her husband's office and their home are investigated. Called in by the FBI to help solve the mystery, Evelyn is thrust into her toughest research project ever...and forced into a maze of deception and betrayal.

Micah Gregson, the Coast Guard captain who rescued the Greenback, is determined to find out why a special unit at the FBI—the one assigned to cryptozoological cases—is involved.

Together Evelyn and Micah will uncover a plot more deadly than anything the ocean could ever produce. One that will either save Evelyn's life and redeem her career, or destroy everything she—and myriad others—stand for.

C. KEVIN THOMPSON is an ordained minister, having served churches in New York, Mississippi, Texas, and Iowa. He is married (for 33+ years), has three daughters, two sons-in-law, and five grandchildren. He speaks in churches on occasion, presently works as an assistant principal in a Central Florida school district, and plays the drums in his church’s praise team. He is a huge fan of the TV series 24, The Blacklist, and Criminal Minds, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic too.

Kevin is a member of the Christian Authors Network (CAN), ACFW, and Word Weavers International, and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (OakTara, 2012; winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) and 30 Days Hath Revenge - A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1 (OakTara 2013), as well as articles in The Wesleyan Advocate, The Preacher, Vista, The Des Moines Register and The Ocala Star-Banner.

Facebook:      C. Kevin Thompson – Author Fan Page
Twitter:         @CKevinThompson
Goodreads:    C. Kevin Thompson