Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Turn Delays into Deeper Stories by Marie Wells Coutu

This is the season of delay and frustration for me, and I’ll guess it is for you, too.

For some, November (NaNoWriMo) was a month of productivity and progress. You felt great about your new story and your ability to write every day, to kick out 1,666 words a day, day after day for a month.

Marie Wells Coutu

Or maybe not. Perhaps you didn’t meet your goal, but you still wrote more words than you usually do, and you convinced yourself you can be a real writer. Or you skipped NaNoWriMo and kept moving forward with your current project.

Then comes December. Decorating, mailing Christmas greetings, shopping and wrapping, travel, demands of family (who may have felt ignored during November) all conspire to distract you from your writing goals.

As I write this, we’re already a week into the month and I’ve had only a couple hours actually devoted to working on my novel-in-progress. And my (self-imposed) end-of-year deadline is looming large.

Of course, there’s much advice available about making time to write or negotiating a new due date. But my question is how can these delays help our writing?

Like anything else in life, those feelings of frustration or panic can fuel our story.
Is your character struggling to accomplish her goal due to antagonistic forces? Delve into your own feelings of anger and disappointment at not having time to write, and put them on the page as part of her emotional journey.

Do you have a character who is driven to succeed but is too busy for his own—or his family’s—good? Examine how your busy-ness affects your family or your health, and see if you can’t translate those struggles into your story.

Is a ticking bomb about to explode? Remember your own panic over not meeting your deadline, then triple it.

Take a few minutes today to journal about your current situation and why you aren’t working on your novel. Go deep. See if some of the thoughts that bubble to the surface also apply to a situation your character may face.

Don’t let delay be the only outcome of your December writing-wise. Strive to stay attuned to your emotional state and how you can use it in your writing. Make notes, even if you don’t have time to write an entire scene.

When the delay is over—whether it’s a few hours or the entire month--you’ll have material to add richness to your writing and give your readers characters they can relate to.

About the Author
The Secret Heart
by Marie Wells Coutu
Marie Wells Coutu retired in 2013 from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. She now spends her time writing fiction—when she’s not busy having fun with her husband or with their four grandchildren. She has written three novels for Write Integrity Press, including the award-winning For Such a Moment and Thirsting for More. Her most recent book, The Secret Heart, released in February. She is working on a historical novel set in western Kentucky, near where she grew up.

Marie is a regular contributor to Seriously WriteFor more posts by Marie, click here.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Shake Off the Fear, Spread the Love!

by Peter Leavell @peterleavell

Ellen Langer did the impossible. She sent eight 80-year-old men back in time.

The year was 1979

Eight old men on a bus, sequestered away from the world. On a retreat. Created by Ellen Langer.

Each man had been studied carefully. Hearing, joint pain, memory—everything had been documented.

Coddled by nurses in nursing homes, they weren’t ready for the upcoming shock. As the men managed to get off the bus, they were forced to haul their suitcases to their rooms themselves.

They barely made their rooms.

When they looked around, they were stunned. The decorations were from 1959, when they were in their 50’s. Magazines in racks featured Nixon and Khrushchev. Rio Bravo played on an old television. Outdated clothes hung in closets.

Nixon and Khruschev in 'Kitchen Debate

That week, in the evenings, the men chatted about their work, and soon they spoke in the present tense about their past. “I do this, and I do that,” became the normal chatter.

These men traveled back in time.

At the end of the week, they went through extensive physicals. All were standing straight. IQ was 64% higher. All looked younger. All were more athletic, flexible. Memories were sharper.

They were younger.

Ellen Langer was shocked at how much these men changed. She’s duplicated the experiment over and over in various ways, telling maids that their work was exercise and those who believed their work was for fitness lost weight and size, compared to those who believed cleaning was simply work. And so many more.

The body, she discovered, believes what the mind tells it. They were young again, because they believed they were in their 50's.

That’s why propaganda is so dangerous. Or useful.

Science, as usual, is catching up with the Bible.

Philippians 4:8 ESV

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Our future is secured, forever with Christ, Who loves us. He’s offered the forgiveness we crave. The eternity we long for.

So, why does the world see Christians as a fearful people?

The world has a point. Like those men in the experiment, we watch the media carefully for hand chosen stories that would never touch us had we not seen them on television. We cry over tragedies half a world away and we’re horrified enough to offer a quick prayer. We believe that the grave is end and the loss of possessions makes a life not worth living. We act as if politicians own our soul.

We live in a culture of fear. Magazines, movies, stories, posts on social media—our reality terrifies us. Every election we’re reminded how terrible our country is while we watch with full bellies and text our friends, inside the four walls that keep us warm.

Yes. Horror and death are real. Tragedy rips us apart. I’ve lived them. But it doesn’t end there.

Someday, our tears will be wiped away. Our pain removed. Peace restored. The lion and the lamb rest together.

Hope. Are we living it? Or are we simply adding a 'Lord willing' or 'but God is still good' at the end of our thoughts?

As authors, writers, content creators, what are we reflecting to our followers? Fear? Hatred? Or the light of Christ?

John 13:34-35 ESV

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Why do people know us for our fear? Our hatred? Our anger? Our sinfulness?

What we tell ourselves is what we believe. And what we tell our followers creates the culture they live in.

Are we rehashing the promises of Christ? Or fear mongering?

We’ve a higher calling, my friends.

Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing's Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter's books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com.

Friday, December 8, 2017

An Overnight Success by Joanna Davidson Politano

Joanna Davidson Politano
Sometimes it can be difficult to see time pass with no breakthroughs for own writing efforts while watching others receive contracts, awards, and praise from readers. It can be especially challenging when those rewards “appear” to come almost effortlessly. But, do they really? Author Joanna Davidson Politano shares her “overnight success” story. ~ Dawn

An Overnight Success

God is always in charge—that’s the crux of my publication story. It was an “overnight success” that was only achieved with God’s sovereignty. The reason I’m so certain of that is because my overnight success came after several years, like maybe six, of trying in vain and getting nowhere. Pitches at conference, requested material, contest finals, and then… crickets. 

When my baby girl was born, I quit my day job to stay home with her, and so it only made sense that God would want me to also set aside the pursuit of publication. The problem was, I failed to actually discuss the matter with Him. But then, during a random conversation with God about something else, He made it clear that it was never in His plan for me to set aside this desire, and that now was the time to pursue it.

Confused and surprised, I attended a one-day writing conference and I met three agents. I showed them my work, the same manuscripts that had returned nothing but silence before, and received three offers of representation, an award, and an invitation to submit from an editor who was a contest judge—all in one massively overwhelming, unbelievable day.

I soon signed with my wonderful agent and worked hard to finish the manuscript we’d discussed. She sent around a proposal and within a few months we had three offers. Now remember, this is the same me and the same stories that received nothing from the requested submissions I’d sent before. The difference was merely this—God said, “it’s time.” And He doused me with affirmative replies, just so I’d be sure to know this was actually Him behind all this.

I often wondered, in those waiting years, why on earth He kept urging me to pursue something that wasn’t coming to fruition—and likely wouldn’t, with how slim the chances of publication are. Now that I’m writing my third contracted book, I’m very aware of how very much I need Jesus in this process, and I think that’s the answer to why He had me waiting for so long. From creating stories that will resonate with people to facing public reviews, I need Him desperately and I only learned how to pursue intimacy with Him in the waiting and wondering period. Through a lack of success, He gently urged me to pursue Him more deeply, more authentically, and having that intimacy with Him is more than worth the long wait for publication.

Whether you’re published or not, I urge you to pursue God even harder than a contract, great reviews, or any bestseller or award-winner status. You need Him—believe me. For those of you still waiting and trying, know this: your publication story may not look like mine, because God deals differently with everyone, but hold tight to the truth that He is that powerful and He is that worthy of your trust. Writing is a trust-fall into God and He’ll never let you down.

Lady Jayne Disappears

When Aurelie Harcourt's father dies suddenly, he leaves her just two things: his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll, and his wealthy family—who want very little to do with her.

As Aurelie struggles to find a home with her father's family and learn the rules of society, she relishes in his parting gift—the beginning of his last story. The story she always wanted to hear, about her mother's mysterious disappearance from the home where she now lives. To complete the novel, she'll have to extract clues from relatives—and one enigmatic houseguest—who often seem reluctant to give them up.

Joanna Davidson Politano is a debut novelist and stay-at-home mom who spends naptimes spinning tales that capture the exquisite details of ordinary lives. She lives with her husband and their two babies in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan. She writes about stories and Jesus at www.jdpstories.com.

Connect with Joanna and learn more about her and her books here:

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Mary DID Know by Susan Tuttle

I love, love, love Christmas! As crazy as I am about fall, these next few weeks of the year are my absolute favorite. In fact, I’ve actually been listening to Christmas carols since November 1st. Love. Them. And one of my favorite is “Mary Did You Know?” But as much as I love the song, I always think, “Um…yes. She knew. Because the angel told her.”

Now did she know all the amazing things Jesus was going to do? No. That part of the song has got it right. Even knowing who God was and this amazing miracle he was performing through her, there was no way Mary could have imagined the miracles Jesus would perform on this Earth. Blind to see? Lame to walk? The dead to live again? Who would ever have even begun to form those thoughts in their minds when they’d never encountered living, breathing Jesus before? His story hadn’t fully been told.

And neither has yours.

Oh friends! God daily performs miracles in us when he partners with us in story telling. He crafts something from nothing every day using our very hands. And yet we cannot even begin to understand the amazing things he’s going to do with what we give birth to! The places our stories will travel to. The lives it will touch. The miracles that will happen through them.

We KNOW who God is, but we cannot begin to know what he’s going to do with the gift he’s growing in us. Wow. To serve our God…to be used by him…it’s an amazing thing. Isn’t it?

Merry Christmas, friends.
Susan L. Tuttle lives in Michigan where she’s happily married to her best friend and is a homeschooling mom of three. She’s firmly convinced that letters were meant for words, not math, and loves stringing them together into stories that inspire, encourage, and grow women into who God created them to be. Romance, laughter, and cookies are three of her favorite things, though not always in that order. You can connect with Susan at her blog, Steps, Facebook, or Twitter.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

When You Feel Like Quitting by Heather Day Gilbert

Ask any author who's been at it for several years (well, except someone like J. K. Rowling or Stephen King), and they'll probably tell you they reached a point where they thought about throwing in the towel. Writing books is hard, and marketing them is unavoidable and time-consuming.

There are so many ways authors can become discouraged. 

Here are a few that might resonate with you today: 

  • Seeing other authors placing and winning in contests where you were sure you had a shot
  • Seeing other authors signing multiple-book contracts with big-name publishers while you're struggling to get one book picked up
  • Experiencing a lackluster book release after tremendous time and effort went into it
  • Putting in full-time hours on this writing job that barely pays like a part-time job (particularly true for indie authors, who handle everything about book production themselves, so there is far more time invested from the get-go)
  • Getting a string of low reviews that might be completely off-base, but they feel like a barrage of hatred for all your hard work
  • Not hearing back from agents, editors, early readers...whoever it is you've pinned your hopes on to encourage you as an author
  • Dealing with a lack of moral support from significant others/family

I can't say I've experienced all these discouraging things, but I have experienced nearly all of them. And sometimes these discouragements turn into the perfect storm and you just want to Q.U.I.T.

I reached one of those points recently—and the timing is so dumb, because I'm poised on the brink of another book release, with three books contracted in the future. But discouragement is no respecter of book release plans.

So what's the remedy? I can't tell you how many times my husband, my critique partner, my parents, or my readers, have pep-talked me when I was in a pit of despair about my author career. If I hadn't had their support, I know I wouldn't have stayed the course this long.

And to look at the bright side, accolades and awards do come along, and sometimes readers send emails that make your entire month, and sometimes you get a string of GOOD reviews, and you feel, for one beaming moment of glory, like your work is appreciated.

But when discouragement knocks you flat, there's only one way to keep moving forward (and it only works if you know you're supposed to be writing): you have to DIG DEEP AND KEEP GOING. You begin to laugh at discouragement—verily, you even come to EXPECT it—and you sit down in that chair and you write ANYWAY.

Because we know what happens if we don't—our books will slide right off the readers' radar. Sure, we can market and advertise our previous releases, but readers always want NEW and shiny books, and if we're not producing them, mostly likely our income will continue to decrease. And quite possibly our happiness will decrease, too, if we find joy in creating stories for people to read, which I think most of us do.

Please note that I'm not saying we have to write 24-7 and market like maniacs. There are definite times and seasons in life when we have to step back and take extended breaks from writing and marketing. But if we don't come back and stay in the game, we are likely torpedoing our careers, no matter our previous successes.

For me personally, I've put in too many hours and worked too hard to throw my career over just yet. Maybe there will come a day when I do, but today isn't that day. If you've been feeling discouraged about writing, but you know it's what you want to do most of all, don't rely on others to keep lifting you up. Dig deep and find the motivation in yourself to keep producing new books for your readers. I know they will thank you!

And if this post felt a bit harsh, please know that this entire article was really written as one gigantic, personal pep talk to myself. As for me, I've determined I'm going to keep writing. 

How about you? Has there been a time when you've considered giving up your writing career?


HEATHER DAY GILBERT, a Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational story-telling runs in her blood. Heather writes Viking historicals and contemporary mystery/suspense. Publisher's Weekly gave Heather's Viking historical Forest Child a starred review, saying it is "an engaging story depicting timeless human struggles with faith, love, loyalty, and leadership." Find out more on heatherdaygilbert.com.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Celebrate Christmas by Laura V. Hilton

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Matthew 1:23 (KJV)
‘Tis the season with all the hustle and bustle. Christmas shopping, list making, decorating, traveling, guests, and ever so much more. Our tree is up and decorated, there are already a few presents wrapped and under the tree, and I have Christmas cards nearby, ready to be addressed and sent. My husband took my boring Christmas letter (I was tired and unmotivated when I wrote it) and rewrote portions to make it more interesting for the recipients. 

I’m starting to think about the menu for when my adult children are home. One daughter requested seafood chowder and we have made it tradition to have shrimp and cream cheese crab spread on crackers, but one of my sons has a special someone coming home with him to meet the family and he says she doesn’t like seafood. 
Hmm. To serve and make the family happy, or not to serve to make a guest happy. Oh, the dilemma. 

People have their own traditions during the holidays – like in our house, the tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving. My dad’s Christmas village goes up the same day, on the top of the piano. We play Christmas music all month long. We hang candy canes on the tree and replenish the supply often. And we read the story of Jesus’s birth on Christmas morning before we open gifts. 

I won’t argue. I know some of those reading don’t celebrate Christmas. Even some Christians argue it’s a pagan holiday and it isn’t really when Christ was born. Yes. I know all that. But it is also my favorite holiday—made only better if snow falls that day (rare 
in Arkansas,). I wanted to be a Christmas bride and I was (thirty years this year). I was born during this holiday season. It’s just exciting. Fun. And the fact that we’re celebrating our Lord and Savior just makes it better. 

What are some of the traditions you enjoy? W
hich help you focus on Christ's birth?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours.

About the Author
Award-winning author, Laura Hilton, her husband, Steve, and three of their children make their home in Arkansas. She is a pastor’s wife, a stay-at-home mom, and home-schools. Laura is also a breast cancer survivor. Laura also has two adult children.
Laura V. Hilton

Her publishing credits include three books in the Amish of Seymour series from Whitaker House: Patchwork DreamsA Harvest of Hearts (winner of the 2012 Clash of the Titles Award in two categories), and Promised to Another. The Amish of Webster County series, Healing Love (finalist for the 2013 Christian Retail Awards). Surrendered Love and Awakened Love followed by her first Christmas novel, A White Christmas in Webster County, as well as a three book Amish series with Whitaker House, The Amish of Jamesport series, The Snow GlobeThe Postcard, and The Bird House in September 2015.

See below for information on Laura's latest, The Christmas Admirer. Other credits include Swept Away from Abingdon Press. Laura is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and a professional book reviewer.

Connect with Laura
visit her blogs: http://lighthouse-academy.blogspot.com/ &http://lauravhilton.blogspot.com/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Laura_V_Hilton or@Laura_V_Hilton
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Laura-V-Hilton/161478847242512
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/vernetlh/

The Christmas Admirer

The Christmas Admirer
by Laura V. HIlton
by Laura V. Hilton

Benaiah Troyer has loved Susanna King for as long as he can remember, but other than a lone summer filled with romantic buggy rides, marrying her remains an elusive dream. When his parents died in an accident a year ago, he broke up with her—for her own good. After all, they left him as the sole caregiver for his three younger sisters and his grandparents. What woman wants to step into a ready-made family like his? Still, he leaves her monthly gifts from “A Secret Admirer,” hoping she’ll know that someone loves her, even though he isn’t free to step forward.

Susanna has never gotten over losing Benaiah, and hopes he’s her secret admirer, but now the clock is ticking. Susanna’s father is remarrying in January and his wife-to-be doesn’t want to leave her Amish community and family in Iowa. So when Susanna’s daed sells his glass-blowing business to his right-hand man, Benaiah, she’s left with three options: 1) Go with Daed to his new home with a new frau and step-kinner, 2) Flush out her mysterious secret admirer, or 3) Resign herself to life as an old maid. She doesn’t want to follow Daed where his new frau is leading him. And number three isn’t happening. Marrying Benaiah is her greatest desire—but he broke her heart, and now he treats her like a pesky younger sister. Can she make him see her as a woman, one who could stand by his side as he cares for his family?

As Christmas approaches, Susanna and her friends start making gingerbread houses for select members of the community. Susanna plans for hers to go to Benaiah’s family. But while her gingerbread may find a home—will her heart?

For more posts by Laura V. Hilton, click here.

Nativity image courtesy Pixabay via CC0 Creative CommonsFree for commercial use, No attribution required

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Hope of the "The End" by Amy Rognlie

Amy Rognlie

The Hope of “The End”
By Amy Rognlie 

The End. What writer doesn’t love those two little words? It’s the finish line. The culmination of hours and hours of blood, sweat and tears. But the ending itself would be meaningless without all that comes before it: the process of building word upon word, scene upon scene.
When it comes to the process of writing, fiction writers often claim allegiance to one of two camps: the plotters or the pantsers. Plotters are those who plan out their story in detail before beginning to write it, and pantsers are those who, as the name suggests, dive into a story without any (or at least not much) idea of where the story is headed. Surely there are writers who are somewhere in between? Well, ye-e-e-es, but most of us lean in one direction or the other.
I’ve always been a loyal pantser, even before I knew what to call myself. I’d start writing a story with just the barest image of a character or a scene in mind. I didn’t know how to do it any differently. And hey, it all worked out in the end, so why not? Well, because in a way, I made more work for myself. Went down paths that led to dead-ends. Painted my characters into corners too onerous to escape. Dug holes I had to explain my way out of.
I find this difficult to understand, because in my “real” life, I’m definitely a planner. I love setting goals, and (mostly) enjoy the hard work and the discipline it takes to reach those goals. So why don’t I approach writing as a planner? Um, I don’t know. Maybe because doing all of that planning ahead of time makes novel writing sound more like work than fun.
But I have a confession. Now, well into writing my eighth book, I’m starting to lean more and more toward the—gasp—plotting camp. I never thought I’d see the day, but the idea of actually knowing how my book is going to end does hold some appeal. Smile. I’ve also come to realize that when I know how my story ends, all of the scenes leading up to that end are shaped—some overtly, some almost imperceptibly—by that knowledge. How could they not be?
Musing about this recently, I started drawing spiritual parallels. I can’t help it. I’m always looking at life situations and asking myself, “How does this illustrate the faith journey?”
Here’s what I came up with: Everyone, in real life, will fall somewhere on the continuum of plotter or pantser. And if we are followers of Christ, we already know the end of The Story. We might not have any idea of what will take place between now and then, but we know where we’re headed. And we know that Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, has given us specific guidelines as well as general principles to follow, right?  So how do we mesh our natural bent as a real-life plotter or pantser with the everyday, in-and-out “followingness” of Jesus?
Hmm. If you’re a plotter, you’ve probably already noticed a serious problem: real life is messy. Messier than we’d like. And plot and plan as we may, our carefully outlined scripts of what life is “supposed” to be like are often ripped to shreds. Stuff happens, you know?
So what’s a plotter to do? What can a planner plan on?
Plan on God’s faithfulness. Plan on His mercy. Plan on His immutability in the midst of an ever-changing world.
And the pantsers? Those who don’t have time or inclination to sweat the “small stuff”?
Revel in God’s creativity demonstrated in your life. Strive for intentionality. Keep the end in sight.
Why? Because one of these days, we’ll all arrive at the end of The Story. Our individual journeys may have been long and arduous or smooth and relatively pain-free. It won’t matter, then. What will matter is that we have fought the good fight. Run the race. And entered into the ultimate happily-ever-after that only The Author could create.
So, keep your eye fixed on the finish line. Hold the hope of the end close, letting it permeate every thought, every goal, every plan…every scene of your life. It will be worth it all one day. I promise.

Make Haste Slowly by Amy Rognlie
Life in Short Creek, Texas is just what Callie Erickson expected it to be: calm and predictable…until the morning a gift bag—along with a dead body—appear on the doorstep of her shop. A terrible tragedy? Or something more sinister?

After moving halfway across the country for a new crack at life, Callie isn’t eager to become entangled in any more trouble than necessary. But a cryptic message, a needy neighbor, and her own heart won’t allow her give up so quickly. With the help of her indomitable Aunt Dot, and friends both old and new, Callie sets out to discover the truth. What she finds might change her life forever.

Amy Rognlie writes inspirational fiction, including mysteries and historical novels. When not writing, she is teaching middle school language arts or leading a Bible study at the local jail. Amy lives in Central Texas with her husband, dogs (including a pug, of course), and a plethora of plants, yarn, and books.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Rognlie/e/B001K8KU9W/
Website: https://amyrognlie.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AmyRognlie/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/@amyrognlie/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/amyrognlie/