Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Five Tips for Beginning Speakers by Beth Ann Ziarnik

If you're like me, the idea of public speaking is enough to make you want to hide in a corner of the attic. But Beth Ann Ziarnik considers those invitations great opportunities for promotion and gives us some pointers to help us climb down those attic stairs and onto the stage with confidence. -- Sandy

Beth: Your first novel releases, and you’re holding your dream in your hands! But along with that excitement comes a massive, mind-boggling swirl of promotions—including invitations to speak.

Stay with me here! You can do it.

Invitations to speak appeared the minute my romantic suspense, Her Deadly Inheritance, debuted. To take advantage of those promotion opportunities, I had to make some decisions. You will face the same decisions.

What will I talk about? The easy answer is: pick topics related to your book. Like “My Author Journey.” How did you become a writer and come write this book? You’re already an expert on that subject.

Another topic related to your novel might be a combination how-to and travelogue where you tell brief stories about how you chose your setting and incorporated on-site research in your novel. Sprinkle it liberally with those fun anecdotes.

How often will I speak? (And still have time to write that next novel and keep up with family and friends). I decided once a month was good for me. Other writer friends speak four or five times a month. The choice is yours.

How much do I charge? As a beginning speaker, I let the sponsoring group decide. Often you will receive an honorarium of $25 - $50. In any case, you will sell books and spread a buzz of excitement about your novel.

Where will I speak? Local writers’ groups are great places for beginners to practice speaking. I spoke at three area writers’ groups who also asked me to bring my books to sell and sign. Writers love to buy books!

Libraries enjoy hosting authors, too. Contact your local library, and then branch out to others. When they book your author event, bring along your books to sell and sign.

Check out community events. When I heard about the Fox Cities Book Festival, I applied to be one of their speakers and had a great time. Also sold a lot of books.

Do I need a helper? Yes, you will need a helper to sell your books while you visit with readers and sign books. It’s also good for someone to accompany you when you travel to an event. A friend rides with me, making it a fun and safe outing for both of us.

For more tips, I recommend Speaker to Speaker by Kathy Carlton Willis.

Do you have experience in public speaking? Any additional pointers or success stories you'd care to share?


A long-time fan of romantic suspense, Beth Ann Ziarnik offers her first novel with all the twists and turns,

Her Deadly Inheritance:
cliffhangers and romantic tension she and readers have come to love. She is a co-founder of Word & Pen Christian Writers in Northeast Wisconsin and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. In addition to her 450 published pieces (several included in anthologies), she is the author of Love With Shoes On, her ten-year devotional column about love in action and based on 1 Corinthians 13.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Writing Is Not a Solo Trip by Marie Wells Coutu

Marie Wells Coutu
Angie, here: Last week, I had the real pleasure to room with my friend, Marie Wells Coutu, while at the 2016 American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference. So today, when we had a bit of a schedule mix-up with today's post, she agreed to write this wonderful piece for you. I know you'll like it.

The writing journey is not a solo trip.

That’s one of the key takeaways that I got from the past week at the annual ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference.

Even more than in past years, it seemed, the winners of the Genesis and Carol Awards thanked their families, mentors, and critique partners as well as their agents, editors, and—of course—God.

And, one after another, they encouraged unpublished and non-winning authors to persevere in our writing. As Ted Dekker said, Christian fiction is “story in which you ultimately bring the light of Christ into the darkness.”

The awards program reinforced the feeling of the entire conference that we (meaning all Christian writers) are family. Rather than competing with each other, we support one another and lift each other up. As each of us studies to learn the craft of writing and as we help others to grow in their craft, we raise the overall level of excellence in Christian fiction. And that makes our books more attractive to those who need light in their dark world.

But not only are we on this journey with other writers, but we are traveling with Jesus.

In one of the conference breakout sessions, Allen Arnold (former fiction publisher at Thomas Nelson who is now with Ransomed Heart Ministries) taught that we not only write for God, but we should be writing with God. When we have the Creator of the universe as our writing partner, we can find freedom in our writing. We relinquish “the illusion of control” and find peace, hope and joy that will permeate our stories.
In accepting the Carol Award for Historical Romance, Karen Witemeyer quoted Psalm 115:1: 

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! 
She reminded us that “all you do is for God’s glory.”

While we often need solitude to write our stories, we should not—indeed, cannot—succeed independently. By joining with God and with others in the industry who are passionate about Christian fiction, we can shine His light into dark hearts.
We can encourage others who travel with us on this path, as well as those who will come behind us. And God will get all the glory.

About the Author
The Secret Heart
by Marie Wells Coutu

Marie Wells Coutu’s newest novel, The Secret Heart, will be released in late August from Write Integrity Press. Follow Marie on to be notified when it becomes available. The Secret Heart is the third book in the Mended Vessels series. Books in the series are contemporary re-imaginings of the stories of biblical women, including Esther and the woman at the well.

Her debut novel, For Such a Moment, won the Books of Hope Contest. Thirsting for More, the second book in the series was a finalist in the 2016 Selah Awards Contest. You can find more about Marie and her novels on her Facebook page (Author Marie Wells Coutu), at her website (, or follow her on Twitter (@mwcoutu).

Marie retired after 15 years with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and she and her husband now divide their time between Florida and Iowa.

The Secret Heart

Beautiful Shawna Moore married Hunter Wilson, the governor of Tennessee, after a whirlwind romance, only six weeks following her first husband’s death in Iraq. Now, she wonders if the governor loved her at all or only hoped to avoid a scandal.

An investigative reporter—and friend of Shawna’s—is asking questions. If he discovers the truth about Shawna’s baby, Hunter’s chances for reelection could be ruined. But keeping the secret is destroying their marriage. Will Shawna convince Hunter to choose his family and drop out of politics, or will he continue to put his career first?

The Secret Heart will be released in late August from Write Integrity Press.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Follow Through for Breakthrough by Annette M. Irby

Annette M. Irby

Hey, fellow writers! Annette here. Raise your hand if you're just back from ACFW's annual writers' conference. I didn't go this year, but I have a feeling I can relate to how you're feeling. Once you've recovered from the exhaustion and processed the last few amazing days, no doubt you'll have some follow-up that needs attention. Here's some encouragement for that moment!*

What if the only thing stopping your advancement is you?

I was just cleaning my desk and God brought me this question. I might be procrastinating right now. I might. You tell me. The dusting spray is out, the right side of my desk is dazzling, and on the left side of my desk? A manual on how to make that book proposal sparkle.


First, I need a little company here in my procrastination pool. Raise your hand if you *love* writing proposals… Anyone? Hmm. That’s what I thought. 
I just returned from the ACFW conference. And I had some great meetings and requests for proposals. So, like a diligent writer, I’m trying to get my act together, study what these different agencies and houses want in their proposals and get them sent. Right? 

Or maybe I’ll just work a bit more on clearing off my desk. After all, this room was a hotbed of preparations just a couple of weeks ago, prior to conference. And I have things strewn all over that I haven’t had a chance to pick up, or file. And then there’s the dust… Oh, the dust. And then, there’s…

Well, there’s the proposal I need to polish.

So, there I am when God asks me: What if the only thing stopping your advancement is you?

Did you feel that all the way over there? ;) Yeah, me too.

So, I’ll research, and I’ll polish. (Say it with me now.) And I’ll follow. Through. 

I made a new friend at conference. She lives locally, but we met at the airport. (Don’tcha love that?) She relayed a story where an editor asked every single person around the lunch table (what is that, ten, besides the editor?) to send her their proposals. All ten of them. And how many followed through? Can you guess? I mean, here’s an open door. An. Open. Door. How long do we writers wish for, beg for, pray for, search for an open door? And they all had one. Now, I’m not saying there were any guarantees, we know that’s not possible in this biz or any other, but they all had the same invitation. And guess how many took this editor up on it?


Not one.

What if the only thing stopping your advancement is you?

What if your lack of following through (believe me, this hurts me as much as it does you) is what’s keeping you from breaking through??

God has heard your prayers.

God has held your hand.

God has given you an open door.


Follow through.

Don’t be the reason you don’t advance. Don’t do that to yourself, to your dreams, to your future. Buck up. Settle down. Forge ahead. And follow through.

And we’ll be here cheering you on.

“I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, 
and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, 
have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” 
(Rev. 3:8 NKJV)

Her Nerdy Cowboy

Whoever heard of a bookish cowboy? When Logan McDaniel’s brother-in-law dies, he steps in to help his beloved sister run her ranch. But what does a city boy know of herding cattle? Claire Langley loved her cousin. After he dies, she agrees to serve as a temporary nanny for two heartbroken children. 

Claire and Logan find they share a love of books, and Claire can’t resist the nerdy uncle who is great with children, and who reads to her of pirate romance. Claire’s ailing mother needs her in Seattle. Can she break away? And if she does, can there ever be a future for Logan and her?


Annette M. Irby

Annette M. Irby has three published books and 
runs her own freelance editing business, AMI Editing
See her page here on Seriously Write for more information.

* This article first appeared on SW in 2011. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

T-Shirt Revelations by C. Kevin Thompson

C. Kevin Thompson

As an assistant principal at a middle school, I see a lot of what is deemed “fashion.” Much of it comes in pithy sayings, cartoonish figures, and sparkling letters. Rarely are all three of those combined, though. But they say a lot about us, nevertheless.

One shirt showed a slice of bacon and a cracked egg lying in the street with crime scene tape around it. Standing at the tape was a chicken and a pig. The pig says to the chicken, “Oh no! That looks like Harry.” To which the chicken replies, “Yeah. I think that’s Mildred with him.” My guess was, this kid’s a goof. Likes to laugh. Probably a class clown. Will be the next Gary Larson.

Another shirt said, “Sister for sale. Will trade for old Nintendo games.” This kid suffers from sibling rivalry. And he knows what causes sibling rivalry. Having more than one kid. Lack of empathy. Familial ties aren’t important. Will probably be the next Lex Luthor. 

Still another shirt said, “I give 100%: 32% to homework; 23% to chores; 18% to cleaning my room; 12% to playing outside; 24% to math.” A lack of effort is implied (how each part is broken down). This is coupled with a lack of mathematical skills (Did you do the math?). Yet, a feeling of accomplishment is also implied (He gave 100%!). This kid will be a politician. No probably about it.

People read into things. Including what they read. T-shirts are like paintings, some convey a strong meaning most people get. Others are more “abstract.” The wearer of the t-shirt is like the painter. We who see the art judge the artist.

As authors, our art is our writing. Whether it be fiction or non-fiction, it conveys a persona all its own. And like paintings, it seems we can get about as many interpretations as there are readers. Comes with the territory of Art.

However, our words on a page do convey something about us. Something beyond the usual stigmas, like knowing we are Christian authors by the topics or words chosen (or not chosen!). From a literary standpoint, the revelations garnered about us from our writing start with issues like, the story’s merit, the author’s effort in putting it together, the author’s ability to command the English language (if English is your primary), and more.

When you read an author you’ve never read before, what questions go through your mind? When you start researching that author, what things are you looking for as a reader? The answers to those questions go beyond the words on the page, just like my questions went beyond the words on those t-shirts. What drives a girl to wear a shirt that says, “I’m awesome!” Besides the face value, snap judgments one could make, what really made that child snatch that shirt off the rack and spend $20? What caused that author to write the way he did? Use that imagery? Use that setting? Develop those characters? Pick that topic? Arrange the book the way he did? Associate with those organizations?

But always remember, it was your words on the page that started the whole snowball downhill in the first place. The better they are, the deeper the reader wishes to get to know you. Good writing creates deeper literary friendships.

When I entered the administrative ranks, I vowed to never forget what it was like to be a classroom teacher. I’ve had many teachers tell me how much they appreciate that. They see my efforts “on the page” via my conversations with them, my respect for them and what they do, my incessant efforts to help them in any way I can. As authors, we can never forget what it’s like to be a reader, either. We all have certain authors we love. And those authors used “tricks of the trade” to make our job of reading some much easier and enjoyable.

How deep can you make your literary friendships go?

A Clandestine Mission.
A Cryptic Message.
A Chaste Promise.

Blake Meyer dreamed of a peaceful end to a dutiful career with the FBI. Married now, his life was taking him in a new direction—a desk job. He would be an analyst. Ride it out until retirement. Be safe so he could enjoy his grandchildren some day.

But when a notable member of the IRA is murdered in a London flat, Blake’s secretive past propels him into the middle of a vindictive, international scheme so hellish and horrific, it will take everything Blake possesses—all of it—to save the United States from the most diabolical terrorist attack to date.

C. KEVIN THOMPSON is an ordained minister with a B.A. In Bible (Houghton College, Houghton, NY), an M.A. in Christian Studies (Wesley Biblical Seminary, Jackson, MS), and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership (National-Louis University, Wheeling, IL). He presently works as an assistant principal in a middle school. He also has several years of experience as an administrator at the high school level.

A former Language Arts teacher, Kevin decided to put his money where his mouth was and write, fiction mostly. Now, years later, Kevin is a member of the Christian Authors Network (CAN), American Christian Fictions Writers (ACFW), and Word Weavers International. He is the Chapter President of Word Weavers-Lake County (FL), and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (Winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) is scheduled for reprint with Hallway Publishing, Spring 2017. Kevin’s second book, 30 Days Hath Revenge - A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1, is also scheduled for reprint this fall, with Book 2 due out later in the year. Kevin also has had articles appear in The Wesleyan Advocate, The Preacher, Vista, The Des Moines Register and The Ocala Star-Banner.

Kevin is a huge fan of the TV series 24, The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, and Criminal Minds, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic, too.

Kevin’s Writer’s Blog:
Facebook: C. Kevin Thompson – Author Fan Page
Twitter: @CKevinThompson
Goodreads: C. Kevin Thompson

Thursday, August 25, 2016

ACFW or Bust? Busted! by Terri Weldon

I’m not at the 2016 ACFW Conference. Oh, I made the decision early in the year not to attend. Still as my friends were preparing for the conference I found myself wishing I was attending. So I decided to remind myself why I didn’t go this year.

Limited vacation days. My employer is generous with vacation days. Still there is a limit and I made a conscious decision to spend those days traveling with family this year. We’ve gone on three trips so far and I’ve loved every minute. Definitely the right choice. 

Nothing to pitch. Appointments are a big part of the allure of ACFW for me. Frankly this year I didn’t feel like I had a manuscript ready to pitch. I could have made an agent appointment but I didn’t feel up to pitching myself. Besides, even if I had, with nothing viable to send the agent I didn’t see the point. Wow! That sounds dreary. Don’t worry, I’m not sitting around in the doldrums. I have plans to edit two manuscripts. And yes, I could have pitched them. I didn’t want to. I promised myself I wouldn’t pitch anything that needed revisions. I wanted to be able to come home and hit send if I had a request to see my work. Truth be told, I want to be in the position of sending it from the conference itself. That’s my goal for next year. 

I’ve been to Nashville before and conference is there again in just two years. Totally selfish reasoning, but conference is expensive and if I’m going to be honest I’ll admit that played a part.

Did I make a wise choice? Yes and no. Of the three reasons I listed, spending vacation with my family is the only one I’d hang my hat on again. Even without appointments ACFW is exciting. There are some great workshops where I could have learned a ton. Two friends of mine have been nominated for the Carol. One of them for the first time and I won’t be there with her. That makes me sad. One of my Seriously Write sisters is at ACFW and I’m missing the chance to spend face to face time with her. Countless friends who I rarely get to see are attending and I’m missing the opportunity to be with them. To check out which cute shoes they brought. To find out if one of them bought those pink pumps she wanted or not. 

As far as seeing Nashville again – well I can’t even explain why I thought that was a good reason. Nashville’s a fun city and there is more than enough to see to warrant multiple trips. I will let you in on a secret, in 2018 there is a wonderful mall VERY close to the hotel. I can’t wait to visit it again. 

Bottom line, I’m planning on attending next year. What about you? Are you making plans to attend ACFW or another conference next year? I hope you’ll let me know and let me know what you’re looking forward to the most.

Terri Weldon is a lead analyst by day and an author by night. She enjoys gardening, reading, and shopping for shoes. One of her favorite pastimes is volunteering as the librarian at her church. It allows her to shop for books and spend someone else’s money! Plus, she has the great joy of introducing people to Christian fiction. She lives with her family in Oklahoma. Terri has two adorable Westies – Crosby and Nolly Grace. Terri is a member of ACFW and OCFW, a local chapter of ACFW. Her dream of becoming a published novelist came true in November 2013 when Mistletoe Magic, released from White Rose Publishing.

Readers can connect with Terri:Website: or Blog: Seriously Write

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

My Fake Family Tote Bag by Julie Arduini

Today's post from author Julie Arduini isn't necessarily writing related, but even as authors we can sometimes put on a cheery facade when things aren't going well instead of being honest and seeking prayer and assistance from others. -- Sandy

Julie: One year for Christmas I received a tote bag that has enclosures for pictures. Each opening has a model’s picture already in it that you can replace with your own.

When I first used the tote, I had a young son, a baby with chronic illness and intensive therapies, an out-of-state move and was grieving the loss of my father. I didn’t have time to add my own pictures and I didn’t have an idea if I was coming or going. But I was insistent to put on a smile and pretend I was doing just fine, when deep down I was certain I was dying inside.

I’d love to tell you I was telling the truth in church, but that was the place where I faked it the most. I realized after months of smiling and telling everyone I was great that I was carrying my tote bag.

The one with the pictures that I never replaced with my own.

When someone came up to me at church and asked how I was, without hesitating I smiled and said I was doing great. She touched my bag and asked about my baby. I was talking about her updates and progress, not noticing the confused expression she was wearing.

“Isn’t this your baby here?” She tapped the plastic opening where the model baby smiled.

I noticed the tote bag picture. “Actually, no. It’s the pictures that came with the bag.” Then I laughed. “It’s my fake family.”

And the conviction hit me. My fake family matched my fake reality.

I decided to keep using that tote bag to church to remind me that it was okay to tell the truth.

I was grieving. Lost. Scared. Angry. And so much more I was too numb to process.

As people kept asking me how I was, I gave honest answers. My fake smile was gone, and at times, there were even tears as I shared how I was really doing. There was such freedom in surrendering the fake. It is exhausting trying to keep up an appearance. I also realized I was robbing others of a blessing.

It’s been a decade since then and I still have that tote bag. I never did put my own pictures in it. I love the reminder it gives me, and the story I can share to a hurting woman who is afraid to admit she’s not great.

If you keep smiling and telling people you’re fine when you aren’t, I pray you can surrender the fake feelings and be real. God will see you through. I promise.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar position and realized you needed to be more honest in your feelings and the issues you're facing?



“You need to leave me alone. It’s the least you can do.” 

Carla Rowling has been given her dream of attending cosmetology school. The gift is so generous she feels unworthy because of choices she made as a teen. The pressure mounts as Carla juggles school, is a single mom, helps her best friend Jenna plan her wedding, spends time with boyfriend Will Marshall, and deals with the fact that her son's father is back in their lives.

Will Marshall is the one Speculator Falls resident everyone can count on. His truck deliveries are reliable. He's the first to help friends like Ben Regan with boat work or be a card partner with Bart Davis. Will's ready to settle down with Carla, loving her is natural. He's bonded with her son, Noah. But when Carla starts cosmetology school, she puts emotional distance between her and Will.

Can Carla release her past and create a future full of highlights, or, will she burn her options worse than a bad perm?  

Purchase on Amazon (Kindle and Print)

Entangled is book #2. Although it can standalone, if you’d like to read Entrusted: Surrendering the Present first, click here.

Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and ---maybe one day---the chocolate. She’s the author of the re-release, ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, as well as the sequel, ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past. She also shared her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities at JULIE ARDUINI: SURRENDER ISSUES AND CHOCOLATE and the weekly e mail. SUNDAY’S SURRENDER AND CHOCOLATE.

Snapchat: @juliearduini
Monthly Newsletter:
Weekly Sunday’s Surrender and Chocolate:
Surrendered Scribe Media Promotions: (Book release info sent as needed)