Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Public Speaking … Not So Scary After All by Varina Denman

I would rather eat bugs than stand-up in front of strangers, but since my writing doesn’t pay the bills, this introvert has stepped out of her comfort zone in order to tackle a few odd jobs, including public speaking. My first few engagements made me slightly nauseated, and after a particularly lively group at the public library, I honestly had dizzy spells for a week. But I’ll go to great lengths to support my writing habit, and I’m happy to report that things are getting easier.

A therapist friend of mine suggested I think of myself as another person. (Like … a person who enjoys talking to people.) It was a stretch at first, but now I see the logic behind his suggestion. Lately, it’s been easier for me to “slip into” the role of public speaker, especially when the audience doesn’t know me.

Another trick I’ve discovered is to write every single word of my speech ahead of time. That just makes sense, you know, since I’m a writer. Before I started doing this, I would stutter over my thoughts, because, of course, I’m better at writing than speaking. Once I accepted that fact, I started to use my strengths to my advantage, and now each sentence is strategically crafted, right down to the subtle jokes to keep the audience’s attention. Not that I always stick to the script, which brings me to my last suggestion.

I practice, practice, practice the speech, not memorizing it word for word, but familiarizing myself with it enough that I don’t have to look down at my notes constantly. By doing this, the words more easily roll off my tongue. It’s as though my muscles already know the words, so when my brain doesn’t keep up, my mouth can fill in the gaps. I know that sounds silly, but it works for me. All the practice gives me confidence so that I feel comfortable straying down a few rabbit trails, knowing I can come back to my pre-written lines whenever I need to.

These are definitely not foolproof, or introvert-proof, tips, but they have helped me to overcome my paralyzing fear of public speaking, and therefore to supplement my income enough that I can keep writing. And it’s worth it.

Have you discovered a way to make public speaking easier?


Varina Denman writes stories about women and the unique struggles they face. Her award-winning Mended Hearts series is a compelling blend of women’s fiction and inspirational romance. Her latest novel, Looking Glass Lies, tells the story of Cecily Ross, a recently divorced woman struggling with low self-image. Connect with Varina on her website or one of the social media hangouts.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

From Book to Hallmark Movie 15 Tips and Tricks, Part 2 by Denise Hunter

Last Tuesday, Denise Hunter shared her first seven tips on how to understand the book-to-movie process that she learned when her book, "The Convenient Groom," was filmed by Hallmark. A dream come true, right? Today she shares tips eight through 15. Click here to read the first seven tips. ~ Angie
Denise Hunter

  1. In fact, unless your name is Nicholas Sparks or Nora Roberts, don’t expect to have much, if any, input in the movie itself. Film is a completely different medium than a novel, and sometimes what works well in print doesn’t work at all on the screen. Fortunately I knew this up front and was quite happy to let the film people work their magic.
  2. Getting a book turned into a TV movie is a slow process. I signed the movie option in March of 2015, and The Convenient Groom aired June 18, 2016. A December Bride aired in about the same time frame. That may seem to fairly quick, but when you’re waiting for your book to come alive onscreen, it seems very slow. And you’ll be sworn to secrecy until late in the process. It’s hard to keep the exciting news to yourself. 
  3. Just as with the rest of your career, be a professional. This means working through proper channels. Once you hear that filming is about to begin ask your publisher who will keep you up to date on the process. This person will be the liaison between you and the production company. They might have experience in this role or you might be learning it together. Ask your liaison to get in touch with the film’s production coordinator and ask to be added to the email list for the shoot’s call sheet. A call sheet is sent to actors and crew each day of filming and tells where and what scenes they are filming (and many other details) on any particular day. It’s a terrific way to stay in touch with the filming of your movie. Also ask if they can send you the script. The production manager was happy to provide me with both. If the production company you work with is not as accommodating, you can find behind-the-scenes information through Google once filming is imminent. Follow the actors and director on social media for updates and pics from the set. You can also stay up to date on filming news via the website and its corresponding tweets on Twitter. 
  4. Most Hallmark movies are filmed in and around Vancouver. The vast diversity of Vancouver’s landscape make for a perfect movie set, whether the movie is “set” in Nantucket, Indiana, (like mine) or New York. Also Canadian labor laws are much friendlier to the pocketbook than are the United States’. 
  5. While the matters of funding, screenwriting, and hiring actors and crew can take months, the actual filming of the movie is fast. A Hallmark movie takes only about 2-3 weeks to film! The cast and crew put in some long hours. Because it happened so much more quickly than I expected, I missed the opportunity to be on set for The Convenient Groom, but I was able to go to Vancouver for A December Bride. My husband and I were on set for a day and even had a brief appearance in the movie! Everyone from the producer to the director to the cast and crew were so welcoming, and it was exciting to watch those scenes I’d written come to life. Even if you’re an introvert this is a not-to-be-missed opportunity. Ask your liaison about a set visit as soon as you know the filming dates. 
  6. Expect the unexpected. Sometimes filming gets pushed back, and the airing date gets moved (The Convenient Groom did). Sometimes the title ends up changing, even late in the process (mine didn’t). Sometimes your story has significant plot changes (The Convenient Groom did, December Bride didn’t). Remember the whole experience is an unexpected blessing. You set out to write a book and got a movie deal to boot. Keep a positive attitude! 
  7. Once you have the airing date and permission to announce the movie to the world, spread the word on social media and via your newsletter. Your readers will be thrilled and want to celebrate with you. Share information, like who the leads are, as it becomes available. So many readers told me they were going to re-read The Convenient Groom that I decided to host a Book Club Discussion on Facebook just prior to the movie’s airing date. I also gave away prizes and shared behind-the-scenes information about the movie process. Readers loved it! I did the same just prior to A December Bride’s airing date and was able to share about my visit to the set. 
  8. Hallmark doesn’t host a red carpet event so you’re on your own for the premiere. As your movie date approaches, think about how you want to experience your World Premiere Original Hallmark movie. Keep in mind that Hallmark would prefer that you Tweet live (and encourage your readers to do the same). It’ll be hard to do that if you’re staging a big to-do with 300 of your closest friends. But if this floats your boat, go for it. If you’re an introvert like me, you might prefer to simply host a few of your closest friends and relatives. This is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of moment. Celebrate it in your own way!
Tweet: More book-to-movie tips from @DeniseAHunter.

    About the Author
    Denise Hunter is the internationally published bestselling author of more than 25 books, including "The Convenient Groom" and "A December Bride" which have been made into Hallmark movies. She has appeared on The 700 club and won awards such as The Holt Medallion Award, The Carol Award, The Reader's Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and is a RITA finalist.

    Denise writes heartwarming, small-town love stories. Her readers enjoy the vicarious thrill of falling in love and the promise of a happily-ever-after sigh as they savor the final pages of her books. 

    When Denise isn't orchestrating love lives on the written page, she enjoys traveling with her family, drinking good coffee, and playing drums. Denise makes her home in Indiana where she and her husband have three boys and are rapidly approaching an empty nest. 

    You can learn more about Denise through her website or by visiting her FaceBook page at

    Mark your calendar: Denise is celebrating her latest release, Sweetbriar Cottage, with a Facebook party, June 13, 2017 at 8 p.m. EDT. 

    Sweetbriar Cottage 
    When Noah and Josephine discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down.
    Sweetbriar Cottage
    by Denise Hunter

    Following his divorce, Noah gave up his dream job and settled at a remote horse ranch in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, putting much-needed distance between himself and the former love of his life. But then Noah gets a letter from the IRS claiming he and Josephine are still married. When he confronts Josephine, they discover that she missed the final step in filing the paperwork and they are, in fact, still married.

    Josephine is no happier about the news than Noah. Maybe the failed marriage—and botched divorce—was her fault, but her heart was shattered right alongside his, more than he would ever believe. The sooner they put this marriage behind them, the better for both of their sakes.

    But when Josephine delivers the final paperwork to his ranch, the two become stranded in his cottage during the worst spring snowstorm in a decade. Being trapped with Josephine is a test of Noah’s endurance. He wrestles with resentment and an unmistakable pull to his wife—still beautiful, still brave, and still more intriguing than any woman he’s ever known.

    As they find themselves confronted with each other and their shared past, old wounds surface and tempers flare. But when they are forced out into the storm, they must rely on each other in a way they never have before. Josephine finally opens up about her tragic past, and Noah realizes she’s never been loved unconditionally by anyone—including him. Will Noah accept the challenge to pursue Josephine’s heart? And can she finally find the courage to trust Noah?

    Monday, May 29, 2017

    Fixing the Broken Novel by Annette M. Irby

    books on a shelf*

    Your hostesses here at Seriously are grateful to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of freedom this Memorial Day. We honor them. Thanks goes out to their families as well.


    As many of you know, I’m working on a book series. There’s nothing like a contractual deadline to get you focused on your work, right? Or focused on your weaknesses. I’ve discovered over the years that there are (at least) five stages in growing as a writer:

    1. Not seeing the missing elements in your work.

    2. Knowing something is missing, but being unable to identify what.

    3. Identifying what’s missing but not knowing how to fix it.

    4. Knowing what’s missing and where to go for help to fix it.

    5. Knowing what’s missing, knowing how to fix it, and effectively fixing it.

    This week, I found myself in just such a place as number four above—I knew something was missing in my plot arc, but I couldn’t fix it without help. So I turned to a writing craft book for help.

    We’re living in an age of plentiful writing craft books. My writing craft library grows nearly every year, how about yours? I’m forever a student of the craft, and I recommend we stay teachable. Here is a list of some books on writing that have helped me over the years, and perhaps they have helped/can help you:

    Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson—a helpful, short-read how-to on mastering deep POV. I often point my editing clients to this resource. Very helpful!

    The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler—a guide to mythic structure and the hero’s journey.

    The Anatomy of Story by John Truby—written for screenwriters, but helpful for all story crafters, this book helps writers develops story elements in a compelling way to satisfy their readers. 

    Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell—a nuts and bolts approach to crafting a compelling plot readers can’t resist.

    The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke—a book for beginners about writing from your passion, and learning the rules so you can break them. This book also helps fiction writers craft a novel that engages their readers’ emotions throughout.

    Write Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell—a very helpful, short-read guide to zeroing in on your story’s central theme. This writing how-to directs writers to craft the character’s self-awareness moment midway through the novel and write the beginning to build up to that point, and write the ending to show the transformation from that midway point. I highly recommend this one!

    The Story Equation by Susan May Warren—another how-to I highly recommend. This guide helps you design your characters by considering key elements. This book released in 2016, and I’ve found it to be tremendously helpful since then in my own writing. Don’t miss out on this one. (Incidentally, I also have several of Susie May’s workbooks as well. Extremely useful! Find them at

    Techniques of a Selling Writer by Dwight Swain—everyone talks about this book! I recently recommended it to a client who wasn’t following the logic of action, reaction, decision. (my words). Beginners and seasoned writers will find useful tips here.

    For me, having these (and several other craft books) on hand in print format works best. That way I can highlight throughout and then pull them from my shelf as needed. I tried studying craft books on my Kindle in e-book format, and I can highlight there, but for some reason the information sinks deeper when I highlight, and refer back to, the paperback copy.

    Your turn: Which writing craft books have helped you the most? Which do you recommend? Do you ever turn to craft books to help you fix what’s missing in your novel? (I sure do!) If you were recommending a single craft book to a new writer, which one would you point them toward?

    Happy writing (and studying), friends!


    Husband Material by Annette M. Irby

    Wyatt Hansen has no fears about commitment, but only three years have passed since his beloved wife died, and he can't bring himself to break their annual dinner date—that is until he meets restaurant owner, Lara Farr. Lara doesn't have time for romance; she has a business to run. At least that's what she tells herself so she doesn't have to admit that commitment scares her. But Lara's business is failing, and it just may take a miracle—or marketing analyst, Wyatt Hansen—to save it. Can Wyatt rescue Lara’s restaurant, help her overcome her fears, and prove he is good husband material?


    Annette M. Irby

    Annette M. Irby is a freelance editor and Christian fiction author who dabbles in gardening and photography. She has completely fallen in love with her grandson. She enjoys spending time with her family and husband of over twenty-five years. You can learn more about Annette by visiting her website or her page here on Seriously Write. 

    Connect with me at:

    Twitter: @AnnetteMIrby
    Book Review Website:

    * Photo credit: the awesome folks at

    Friday, May 26, 2017

    Welcome to the Cuckoo’s Nest by C. Kevin Thompson

    C. Kevin Thompson

    I just got done with another session of Saturday School. The last one of this school year, actually (I’m writing this on May 20th). As an assistant principal of a public middle school, I must point out that there are other pieces to the educational puzzle besides reading, writing, and arithmetic. Acceptable behavior in a group setting is a biggie. Classroom disruptions derail the academic process, which is why we get together in the first place.

    Unfortunately, in a society that is slowly lessening the consequences of laws and rules day by day, it’s harder to get students to understand why certain behaviors are unacceptable, especially in a school setting. I mean, they go home and hear parents and relatives talk that way, so why can’t they? They hear the profane language in the movies they watch and the music piping through their ear buds. So, why Mr. Administrator, Mrs. Teacher, do you have a problem with it?

    It seems at times we fight a losing battle. In many respects, that is true. As a Christian, I also have to view life through the lens of scripture. If you’ve ever read the book of Revelation, we lose a great many people to the power of Babylon the Great by the end of chapter 20. But Jesus predicted it in Matthew 7:13. So, it doesn’t surprise me when students react the way they do.

    However, a comment made by one of the Saturday School teachers today encouraged me.

    In Saturday School, we do what are called LEAPS lessons. A company designed lessons that teach social-personal skills to students who have trouble with that area of life, which in many cases, stems from having never been taught proper “etiquette” by their parents (for a variety of reasons). Each time we hold Saturday School—which is an alternative punishment for a referral and part of the progressive discipline ladder—we cover three of these lessons, one an hour, from 9:00 a.m. to twelve noon. Two teachers work the students through the scenarios given, and a hearty discussion takes place on the proper manner in which to handle those situations. Such topics as “Saying ‘No’ to a Friend,” “The Authority of the School,” and “Proper Interpersonal Relationships with Your Peers” are just a few of the kinds of topics discussed.

    We finished today’s session, and one of the teachers told me that the lessons were superb, and she had noticed some students—who had been frequent flyers in Saturday School earlier in the year—were no longer being assigned to attend. It was true. Some students’ behavior had improved. Between what we were doing and what the parents were doing at home, the “data” showed those students had turned the corner in the maturity department.

    So, what’s this got to do with writing?

    The writing life, for me, is much like being an assistant principal. The hours are long. The business is grueling. The accolades are few, and the complaints run high…as do the emotions. Society appreciates authors about as much as educational professionals these days, it seems. They think nothing of paying five dollars for a cup of coffee that takes two minutes to make, yet squawk at paying $3.99 for a book that took months to produce (and if it’s a paperback or hard cover, then it lasts for a long time, I might add, and can be passed along to others in a myriad of ways).

    The writing life is a job they would never want—and they think we’re nuts for doing it unless we’re on the NYTBL and making a boatload of cash—yet, when asked if they want to swap jobs, they look at you like you’ve escaped from Bedlam Hospital. I had a parent tell me once, “I’ve got two middle schoolers, and I want to strangle them sometimes. Why would I want 700? Are you crazy?” This statement can be compared to one I heard a reader make, “Oh, I could never do that (write). I could never sit at a computer that long.” Translation? We’re nuts to sit at a keyboard for hours on end, cooped up in an office, living vicariously through characters we talk to in our heads.

    But what these people don’t understand is, they need us. And so do their children. Because within the decaying fabric of American society, there is still a part of a child’s heart that knows certain things aren’t right, and so those behaviors should change. There’s also a desire within the human heart for storytelling. There are students who are learning how to co-exist with their peers (behavior) and glean material from their teachers (academics). And there are some folks who do get jazzed about a book you wrote, even if they had to buy it. It’s those students and readers who keep educators and writers running up their electric bill well into the night.

    And like educators, writers too have little victories that keep them going. It may be an unexpected review on a bookseller’s website. It may be a social media post. An email, perhaps. The little nugget of encouragement that keeps you going back to the keyboard one more day, knowing that someone found your words uplifting, entertaining, or thought-provoking. Your words helped someone “turn a corner” in their life, even if it was to escape this life for a while and firmly plant themselves in another world.

    Take heart, fellow writer. Like an educator, you never know when the next “Little Johnny” or “Little Janie” will grow up to be the scientist who finds the cure for a disease, and our “Little Johnnies and Janies” are the books, blogs, and articles we “pen.” For your treasures are truly not in books, computers, or words on a page that can be ruined by the mouth of a moth, the oxidation process, or the hand of a robber. Your treasures are being stored where the moth cannot fly. Where rust doesn’t exist. Where the thief cannot reach (Matthew 6:19-24).

    We educators know something about this process. It’s called making a difference in the life of a person.

    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 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.

    His Blake Meyer series is out! 30 Days Hath Revenge - A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1, is now available! Book 2 of the Blake Meyer Series, Triple Time, is now available! Book 3, The Tide of Times, will be out in August 2017! Also, the second edition of The Serpent’s Grasp will be out in June 2017 through Hallway Publishing!

    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.

    To connect with Kevin and learn more, please visit:

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