Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Weather or Not? By Marie Wells Coutu

Marie Wells Coutu
Weather affects our mood, right? A cloudy or rainy day may make us feel lethargic or even depressed while seeing the sunshine can make us smile. In Minnesota, where I used to live, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) can strike some people during the long, cold winters.

A heavy rain shower had me running from a store to my car one day, and I started thinking about how we incorporate the weather into our stories. If we’re not careful, it could be easy to write an entire book where every day is sunny and gorgeous—or where we don’t mention the weather at all.

In one of my historical (unpublished) novels, I started out with an unusually hot day in May. Most of the book takes place in the summer, and as I wrote, it began to feel like every day was extremely hot. Guess the heat wave that year set some records. Fortunately, I realized the need for variety and incorporated rain and storms into some of the scenes.

Very few of our fictional settings will have consistent weather throughout the timeline of the story—unless the setting is a tropical island. Even then, a hurricane or unexpected storm could occur. If we want our stories to be realistic and believable, we need to incorporate the weather patterns appropriate to the location and time of year.

But more than providing variety, the weather affects—and often reflects—the mood of our characters. The one thing I remember about Wuthering Heights is the mist and fog of the moors—appropriate for England and for the overall mood of the book, as well as the mood of several characters.

At other times, the weather can create a contrast to our character’s mood. My most recent release begins with a bright, sunny day, but the setting is a funeral for a baby. The contrast highlights the negative emotions of the heroine, who feels “the sun should not be shining.” Many readers will be able to relate to a time when the weather was the exact opposite of their mood.

Another important consideration is to know the actual weather for the area where your story is set. I once read a book set in my hometown where the characters dealt with a snowstorm that kept them inside for days. Now, this could happen in western Kentucky once in a decade or two, but this novel made it seem like an annual occurrence. Having experienced fewer storms of that magnitude in my childhood than I could count on one hand, the story lacked believability for me after that. Several resources exist for finding weather patterns for your story, including these:

You may even get ideas for stories from these sites when you explore record-setting events in certain areas. A Jack Reacher story, for instance, takes place in New York City during the record-setting heat wave in the 1970s that caused a blackout across the northeast.

In preparing to write a scene, do you consider the weather—hot or cold, rainy or sunny or snowy, windy or still? What mood do you want to create for the scene, and will the weather enhance or contrast that mood? Is there a historic weather event that can provide the backdrop for a story you want to write?

Share examples in the comments of how you’ve used weather to enhance the mood or realism of your scenes, or tell us about great examples from books you’ve read.

About the Author
The Secret Heart by Marie Wells Coutu
Marie Wells Coutu’s newest novel, The Secret Heart, from Write Integrity Press, was named a finalist in both the 2018 National Excellence in Romantic Fiction Awards and the 2018 Royal Palm Literary Awards sponsored by Florida Writers Association. 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 Selah Awards Contest and a semi-finalist in the Royal Palm Literary Awards. An unpublished historical novel set near Golden Pond has been a finalist in five contests.

You can find more about Marie and her novels on her Facebook page (Author Marie Wells Coutu), at her website (MarieWellsCoutu.com), or follow her on Twitter (@mwcoutu) or on Amazon.com.

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

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Bottom End of a Publishing Career

by Peter Leavell @peterleavell

I labored to create a writing career.

As I climbed the ladder of writing success, the view above was surprisingly uninspiring—someone’s backside.

I let go of the rungs and found another ladder. After climbing a few steps, I found another posterior—different, but still another fleshy part a person uses to sit.


I tried an author's ladder whom I admire, and while I climbed rather high, the view before reaching my dream was still the same—the tail end of another writer.

While I was getting good at climbing ladders and following others, I was getting tired of rumps.

I took a step back and viewed the writing world from a distance.

The ladder of success wasn’t a ladder at all. It was a jungle gym with a different way to the top for every person.

For everyone who has left an impression on the publishing industry or will contribute, there is a path designed specifically for them. And you have one, too. One you must discover and climb. 

Every person’s publishing story is different.

There is difference between learning from another person’s path and following another person’s path.

Know thyself. Know what success is for you. Know your strengths. Know your weaknesses. Know the market. Know where you might fit in by using your strengths.

The map for your writing career is yours alone. Share your knowledge, but if you see someone staring at your hinder, encourage them to find their own way. They will have their own work to do, their own conversations with agents and acquisition editors, their own way of seeing the world.

You are unique with a voice that’s only yours. Your book will be inimitable, as will your story to publication. Don’t look for and climb ladders. Find the bars that best fit you, climb onto the first rung, and hold on for dear life!

What is your publishing journey? Where are you at on your ladder?

Tweetable! The map for your writing career is yours alone.
Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history and currently enrolled in the University's English Lit Graduate program, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing's Best award for First-Time Author. A novelist, blogger, teacher, ghostwriter, jogger, biker, husband and father, Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter's books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Writing to Make a Difference by Janet W. Ferguson

Janet W. Ferguson

There are many reasons why we choose to write, but not all give us the stamina to do what’s necessary for success in the industry. Author Janet Ferguson shares her journey and what has motivated her along the way to publication. 
~ Dawn

Writing to Make a Difference

When I started writing, I wanted to express how God uses even our messes to make something beautiful. I had an idea that stayed with me for seven years before I committed to writing the story down. I kept waiting for the right time. I’d learned most novels are about 75000 words. What a daunting task, right?

But, in 2012 my mother lost her battle with Alzheimer’s on February 29. My mother-in-law died suddenly of a plural embolism on April 6; then my elderly father passed away on May 6.

The grief at losing parents was hard, but the realization that life was short stirred my desire to write. More importantly—to write to make a difference. Every night I’d read the last scene I’d written and then start a new one. Within a few months, I’d written The End.

I had no clue what to do next.

I joined a local and national writers’ groups. I navigated the scary world of pitching to agents that first year after my I finished Leaving Oxford at the RWA National Convention in Atlanta. The agents were kind enough to request my manuscript, but suggested I was almost ready, but not quite. Both agents also suggested I should join ACFW and get a critique partner. I jumped in and acquired so many critique partners that I can’t even remember all their names! I attended more conferences, took online craft classes, and read books on the craft of writing. I can’t count how many times I rewrote Leaving Oxford in the four years I spent editing it. Meanwhile I wrote three other books in the series.

At some point, one agent suggested that I indie publish since the market was so tight after Family Christian filed bankruptcy. The thought terrified me, so I edited and pitched again at the ACFW Conference. And I waited. Meanwhile, several of my critique partners were doing really well as indie authors.

Finally, I asked one of them (Misty Beller) if she would mentor me if I decided to go indie, and she agreed. And so I began researching all that I would have to do to successfully indie publish.

I would need a good fiction editor (one specific to my genre) and a good cover artist. I worked on my platform, newsletter, and Facebook author page. I filed for copyrights and bought ISBNs. I filed my publishing company name Southern Sun Press with the Secretary of State. I set up with the tax commission—and so much more. My journey is not for everyone. Not all writers want to own a business, but I’m happy to have my stories out there, and I’ve earned a profit. But the amazing thing is when readers contact me or leave a review saying that the story helped them when they were going through tough times or that the novel was just what they needed at that moment in their faith walk. That is the reason I write! To God be the glory!

I now have five novels published, and that first novel Leaving Oxford is currently free. Check it out! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DJJKRJM

Southern Hearts Series ~ Book 1

Escaping home to Oxford, Mississippi, seemed like a good idea. Until it wasn’t.

A year after a tragic accident in Los Angeles flipped her world upside down, advertising guru Sarah Beth LeClair is still hiding away in her charming hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. And she may well be stuck there forever. Suffering from panic attacks, she prays for healing. Instead, her answer comes in the form of an arrogant football coach and an ugly puppy.

Former celebrity college quarterback Jess McCoy dreamed of playing pro football. One freak hit destroyed his chances. Although he enjoys his work as the university’s offensive coordinator, his aspirations have shifted to coaching at the highest level. His plans of moving up are finally coming together—until he falls for a woman who won’t leave town.

 As the deadline for Jess’s decision on his dream career looms, the bars around Sarah Beth’s heart only grow stronger. But it's time to make a decision about leaving Oxford.

Janet W. Ferguson grew up in Mississippi and received a degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Mississippi. She has served as a children’s minister and a church youth volunteer. An avid reader, she worked as a librarian at a large public high school. She writes humorous inspirational fiction for people with real lives and real problems. Janet and her husband have two grown children, one really smart dog, and a few cats that allow them to share the space.

I love to hear from readers! You can connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, Pinterest, Bookbub, or use the contact page, or subscribe to my newsletter on the Under the Southern Sun page for exclusive book news and giveaways.

I also contribute at Inspy Romance and Heartwings blogs once a month. Check out the authors and prizes!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Weaving Spiritual Themes Into Your Story by Gayla K. Hiss

Gayle K. Hiss
One of my favorite books in the Bible is the book of Daniel. Not only was the prophet Daniel gifted with the ability to interpret dreams, he was given a number of amazing prophecies concerning the future. He also had three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (aka Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), who refused to worship the statue of Nebuchadnezzar, which landed them in the fiery furnace to die. As I wrote WILDFIRE, the third book in my Peril in the Park series, the tale of these three brave young men repeatedly came to mind until I saw its connection to the story I was writing. By weaving this theme of the fiery furnace into my story, it added spiritual and emotional depth to the plight of my characters as they experienced their own fiery furnace. It also helped me hone in on the underlying message of my story—that Jesus Christ is with us in the fire.

Perhaps you have a passage, parable, or prophecy of specific interest in the Bible. There are several ways you can incorporate it into your story: You could make the theme an explicit part of the plot, with a storyline built around it, but the characters and situation fictionalized. Shakespeare was a master at taking historical events and adapting them for plays. The same principle could be applied for adapting a Biblical theme to a fictional novel, for example, a prodigal son story set in contemporary or futuristic times.

Another method for incorporating a spiritual theme is more subtle. You could make the characters and story very different from the theme, but what is going on emotionally with the characters is connected to it somehow. This is similar to what I did in my story. When my characters are faced with their own fiery furnace, on an emotional level they are relating back to the story from the book of Daniel. Of course, the theme needs to be hinted at throughout the story to reveal its underlying message, allowing the reader to make the connection.

An even subtler approach is to hint at the theme at the beginning of the story, for instance, a character could quote a proverb in passing. The theme isn’t mentioned again until near the end, at which point the reader realizes that the adage at the beginning had been illustrated by the story.

I’ve only touched on a few ways to weave a spiritual theme into your story. Choosing a theme can simply be a matter of focusing on a Biblical subject that interests you and has relevance to your characters or plot. Sometimes the Biblical theme will suddenly jump off the pages as you write your story. When that happens, it’s a gift—so go with it. A spiritual theme skillfully woven into a story can profoundly impact your readers, and the most inspirational stories are those that are truly “inspired”. 

About the Author

About Gayla K. Hiss

Gayla’s writing journey began with her hobby painting landscapes. In her imagination, characters and scenes came to life as she painted beautiful natural settings. Her inspiring novels combine her love for the great outdoors with romance, suspense, and mystery. Gayla and her husband often tour the country in their RV, visiting many state and national parks. She enjoys hiking, camping, and traveling, and lives in the Pacific Northwest. She’s excited to announce the August release of WILDFIRE, book 3 in her Peril in the Park series, which can be purchased on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2KhK7Ec. Visit www.gaylakhiss.com to learn more, and connect with her on FacebookAmazon, and Goodreads


Will Rachael and Dylan escape the fire’s fury, or perish in the flames?
Wildfire by Gayla K. Hiss

Sparks fly when wildfire researcher Rachael Woodston clashes with firefighter Dylan Veracruz in Rocky Mountain National Park. The June fire season has just begun, yet a long-standing drought has already turned the national park into a tinderbox. Rachael’s computer data indicates the fire Dylan’s crew is fighting is about to accelerate, but he doesn’t believe her—until the fire suddenly gets out of control and they have to evacuate.

Suspecting arson, Rachael and Dylan join forces in search of answers and soon discover that chasing fires isn’t all they have in common—they’re both survivors who’ve tragically lost loved ones. However, their difference of opinion about faith keeps them at arm’s length, despite a growing attraction. As the danger escalates, Rachael and Dylan soon find themselves in a firestorm they cannot escape. All seems lost until Rachael has a profound encounter that restores her faith and gives her hope. The close call also fuels her determination to stop the fiend behind the flames.
But can she and Dylan solve the mystery and extinguish their enemy before disaster strikes again?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

3 Simple Ways to Deal with After-Conference Overwhelm by Chautona Havig

By the third day of the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference, I saw a shift. The same people from day one who had exited classrooms eager and excited about what they’d learned now floundered. Entire demeanors changed in the span of two days—from talking and laughing to not-so-excited. I watched eager, determined expressions shift to dazed, uncertain, confused.

“I don’t know where to start.”

“How do I do all of this? There’s too much!”

“I want to say I’ll do the most important things first, but they’re all important!”

Most of them were spoken with a nervous laugh. Many times accompanied by a wail.

One woman flipped open a notebook to one of the back pages and showed a “To Do” list.

“I brought a brand new notebook for this conference. It’s almost full of notes and ideas.” She flipped the page back and forth to show both sides. “And those are all the stuff I need to be doing. I need something better than ‘Russian pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey’ to get started.”

Sitting there, I wanted to say so many things to everyone, but there wasn’t time. This is what I would have said if I could. 

3 Simple Ways to Deal with After-Conference Overwhelm

1. You can’t do it all, so don’t even try. Start by eliminating anything that you can put off for six months. Then eliminate whatever you can put off for three. For a month. A week.

When you’re down to only what will help you right now, that makes it a little easier. It may be watching passive-sounding phrases as you finish your manuscript. It may be learning how to use Instagram to build a following. Pick something off that smaller list and start there. Yes, we have to start working on those longer-term things but not when you first get home.

2. Show your notes to a trusted friend or mentor. Often those who know us well can see where we need to make changes better than we can. Treat it like a brainstorming session for your next novel—the one called your life! Lay out “all the things” you learned and see what he or she says. Then take the advice—at least for now.

3. Take time to let all that information sink in. You don’t have to go home on Saturday night and begin applying everything on Monday. Give yourself a week or two to see if something rises to the top.

It’s easy to allow “all the things” to take over your “navigational system,” but careful, prayerful consideration of what you’ve learned and how to apply that will keep you from trying to do everything at once.

And let’s face it. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Writers’ conferences can be overwhelming, but with a plan of attack, you can avoid after-conference overwhelm.


Author of the Amazon Bestselling Aggie and Past Forward series, Chautona Havig lives in California's Mojave Desert where she uses story to direct readers to the feet of the Master Storyteller. You can find her as herself on most social media and at chautona.com.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

People Need the Lord by Laura V. Hilton

… for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. (Matthew 16:7b KJV)
Laura V. Hilton

There is a song that was popular many years ago. Written by Steve Green and titled, “People Need the Lord,” it talks about the people he saw each day who hid their pain and how Jesus knew the cares of their hearts. (To listen on YouTube, click here.)

The lyrics have been brought home to me lately as I begin a new story. As readers know, for characters to become real, their struggles must be realistic. Like the song, their lives must be hard, but I also like my characters to have a fun side too.

I’m struggling with these new characters because I know nothing about them. What lies do they believe about themselves? What is their private pain? I don’t plot out stories, but there are a few basic things I need to know to start. And yes, it could be compared to the military’s: “Name, rank, and serial number.” Or law enforcement’s: “Just the facts, ma’am.” But not exactly.

In the story I just finished and turned into Whitaker House, the heroine believed she was too outspoken to find love. Yet she couldn’t quite seem to manage her tongue. She even struggled to believe that God loved her. Did He hear her prayers? The hero believed that he wasn’t worthy of trust. He wanted to prove himself, but how could he when he failed so miserably? He was limping through life with weak faith.

If you were to meet these characters in real life, you’d think they were happy people. They knew how to laugh and have fun. They had jobs they liked—most of the time. They even said the right words when they were around other believers so people didn’t know they were struggling with their faith.

Just like us.

Sunday I was sitting in church, shamefully not listening to the sermon, but instead mentally composing a letter I would never mail, telling a family member what I thought about their actions and how much it hurt me. I looked at the pastor. I turned to the scripture references. To all intents and purposes, anyone in church would think that I was paying rapt attention to the message. I can tell you the scripture reference… but that is it.

I laughed and spoke with the other members of the church. But not one person there (other than my family) knew how much I was hurting. How much I struggled with the words someone had said.

I needed Jesus. I needed His help to forgive this person, and His help not dwelling on the way I had been treated. God is helping me feel peace and work through the pain.

And that is real life. We play church. We laugh and talk. We hide our private pain. And our characters have to do that too. Yet, since we are in their heads as we read, we have to know what hurts them. What they believe. And how Jesus is going to be able to reach out and touch them in that dark, painful spot so they can begin to find healing.

Is there some way that you need God to work? Can Jesus help you forgive someone for something? Do you need His spirit to heal the hidden pain in your heart?

Dear Lord: You see our hearts and know the pain we’re feeling. Please help us to forgive and heal our emotions. We need You. Amen. 

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

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.

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 blog: http://lighthouse-academy.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/

Firestorm by Laura V. Hilton

Bridget Behr and her family migrate from the bustling Amish community where she grew up in Ohio to the mostly unpopulated Upper Peninsula of Michigan after a stalker breaks into their home. While her father and brother try to find work in the area, the family is forced to reside in a borrowed RV until the house and barn are rebuilt. While Bridget is hoping for a fresh start, she’s afraid to trust anyone—even Gabriel, the overly-friendly Amish man who lives nearby. Bridget thinks he’s a flirt who serial dates and doesn’t even remember the girls’ names.

Due to not enough construction work in his Florida community to keep him out of trouble, Gabriel Lapp has been sent to Michigan to work. His father is desperate for his son to settle down. When the family walks into Gabe’s home in the middle of a thunderstorm and he discovers their circumstances, he offers to help with construction. For Gabe, the beautiful girl he teasingly calls “the recluse” once he discovers she doesn’t attend youth events, confuses him like none other.

As Gabriel and Bridget grow closer, they realize there is more to a person than meets the eye. Just as Bridget is finally settling into her new life, and perhaps finding love, tragedy strikes. Now Bridget and her family must decide if they should move to another Amish community, or dare to fight for the future they’d hoped for in Mackinac County.

Monday, August 6, 2018

How Structure Can Make First Drafts Fun to Write by Christa MacDonald

Christa MacDonald

 How Structure Can Make First Drafts Fun to Write 
by Christa MacDonald

There’s a voice we all hear as we write a first draft. It’s like someone reading over our shoulder, pointing at the words on the page and whispering, "That’s garbage. You should delete this whole page." This isn’t the voice of doubt. It is your internal editor piping up at the wrong stage, and it needs to shut up.

There is nothing like an internal editor to ruin a first draft. I remember when I wrote my first book. Back then, my internal editor didn’t know enough so she didn’t really bother me. Writing that draft was a positive experience. Now I have a few books under my belt, and she’s louder. She knows more too. Often she’ll pester me about repeated words, weak dialogue, over-used gestures in my characters, "you’ve already had him shake his head in this scene." Helpful advice, but not on a first draft. 

I started off my writing career as a pantser, but a struggle with a draft made me a plotter. I had heard that book two (the book you write after selling your first) was legendarily hard to write. Three months into writing mine, I had learned this was all too true. I struggled long and hard over that book and in the end I decided that half the battle was that little voice in my head questioning every choice I made. My internal editor sabotaged me at every stage, leeching the joy out of writing a scene, sapping my motivation. In the end, the plot flailed around and if not for the help of a content editor, that book would never have seen the light of day.

For book three, I turned to the Snowflake Method from Randy Ingermanson. I found it easier to produce a first draft when I had a roadmap. My internal editor had a whole lot less to say when I had the bones of the book already in place. I could ignore her fussing because I knew the structure was solid, and I could fix the rest of it in editing. It was still ugly, but it didn’t take me a year to write it and more importantly, I actually enjoyed the process this time. If slogging through the second book had made me hate writing, silencing my internal editor with some structure made me love it again.

Even if you’re a die-hard pantser, I still recommend getting a rough idea down. And I definitely recommend muzzling your internal editor. Let your first draft be ugly. Give yourself room to write some terrible stuff. Editing will fix what needs fixing. Let the first draft be the giddy, mad, creative stage where you entertain all possibilities.


The Redemption Road
It’s redemption that he needs, and she’ll pay any price to help him find it.

As the new game warden in Sweet River, Alex Moretti is focused on enforcing Maine’s wildlife laws and little else. Moving from tragedy to a fresh start, all he wants is a way to fix his life in the tranquility of the north woods. Until he meets Annie Caldwell at Coffee by the Book. But his own bitter, dark life is a threat to Annie’s sweetness and light. It’s better for him to stay away.

Annie doesn’t know how to label her relationship with Alex, but she is determined to figure it out.  After a few false starts and a kiss under the Christmas lights, their romance goes from fiction to fact. Annie has fallen hard. Then trouble shows up. Someone is stalking Alex, seeking to punish him for a mistake which ended in deadly consequences. When Annie becomes a target, he tries to push her away, but she won’t abandon him. Alex is desperate to keep Annie safe while he attempts to reconcile the past, but what he really needs is redemption. And she will risk her life to help him find it.


Christa MacDonald began her writing career at the age of eleven, filling a sketchbook with poems and short stories. While at Gordon College she traded the sketchbooks for floppy discs, publishing short personal narratives in the literary journal The Idiom. After graduation and traveling cross-country she settled down to focus first on her career in operations management and then her growing family. When her children reached grade school Christa returned to her love of writing, finding the time between conference calls, dance lessons, and baseball games. This November Mountain Brook Ink will be publishing her first novel, The Broken Trail. When not at her desk working or writing, Christa can be found curled up in her favorite chair reading, out and about with her husband and kids, or in the garden. She lives with her family along the coast of Massachusetts in the converted barn they share with a dog and two formerly-feral cats.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Christa-MacDonald/e/B01GGIU8D8
Website: https://christamacdonald.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CricketMacD
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChristaMacDonaldAuthor/
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/christa-macdonald