Monday, December 10, 2018

Words of Power and Intrigue

by Peter Leavell @peterleavell

Words are our livelihood. Sometimes we manipulate and coerce. At other times, they swirl about us and align in perfect order so we might pluck them like Christmas cards at the department store.

We’re wordsmiths.

We uncover beautiful words as we consider their sounds and meanings. 

Words enjoy a beyond in their expandability, a give and take that sustains our souls and gives us purpose. The beyond of a word is more than a dictionary meaning. The beyond has a gratification and a horror that takes an active role in exploring our hearts and minds for experiences long forgotten and moments yet to come.

A word has its own agency, speaks for itself, defends itself. A word has an identity. A color. A friendship. Or is it an enemy? 

Has the word so mistreated you that you see it lurking around a shadowed corner and you must run?

Because the words are alive. And those who utter them do not know the meaning for others.

C. S. Lewis knew the beyond of a word, knew the friendships they have that sustain life. Comfort. Rest.

Courage, dear heart.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader

T. S. Eliot knew the beyond of a word, knew the understanding of the hard, unforgiving passion of sound. He understood a life wanting hope but finds cold, and so ushers in modernism poetry in three lines.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;

The mind screams for relief and finds a glimmer of hope a few moments later.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

Words are locked in your breast. They must be released.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
Maya Angelou

Tell your story. The words hold a beyond you cannot comprehend, a meaning for someone you can’t possibly grasp. 

The adventure is not knowing the beyond of words for others. The adventure is not the journey—is not you on a ship journeying across the sea. Instead, you are the ship carrying the story across the waves to their soul. 

There is only fear stopping you. And the fear doesn’t matter. Because God has given you words that hold a beyond. So you are an adventurer.

Life is a great adventure or nothing.

Hellen Keller

Write as if writing is all there is. Give the world meaning, scope, truth, even lies, but always hope. These words have a beyond for others, and you cannot know the vastness they hold. 

Because you will leave your words behind, as Shakespeare said of our end,

Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

As You Like It, ‘All the World’s a Stage’

Write on, my friends.

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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

Friday, December 7, 2018

Writing at Christmas by Melinda Viergever Inman

Melinda Viergever Inman

Writing at Christmas

Writing our typical content is often difficult this time of year. We have more to do, and our schedules fill quickly. Presents must be purchased, wrapped, and shipped. Projects are often readied for launching in the new year, giving us pressing deadlines. Christmas plays and presentations keep us busy on evenings and weekends, rather than allowing us to recharge.

But, best of all, and maybe also inspiring the most frenzied of our efforts, family arrives, taking us completely away from our work to enjoy an even higher priority—our relationships built on love and commitment.

This is the season to prioritize the Lord, your family, and your giving.

To do so, step away from extra duties, activities, and appointments. Skip that party if you can. Avoid that loud event that will send you home with a headache and regrets. Maybe even dispense with Christmas cards. Minimize your shopping. Stop the craziness.

Focus on the reason—Jesus himself. Spend time with the Lord, concentrating on his Word and prayer. He is what our celebration is all about, and from him flows all else.

 Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus

The main event took place in the lives of an obscure young Jewish woman and her betrothed. It happened in backwater portions of the land of Israel, first in Nazareth and then in Bethlehem, villages void of crowds and noise until taxation forced throngs of people onto the roads and far from home. This created a time much like our own celebration. It cost a lot. It required much.

This most important event was proclaimed by angels, bringing shepherds to their knees. It was accompanied by magi showing up after a journey of many months. It brought the anger of a vicious king and the slaughter of innocent children. This most significant birth brought death and the miraculous, foretastes of what was to come.

When we pare away the unnecessary and focus on Christ, our families, generosity in response to his generous giving of himself, and whatever words, insights, and truths the Lord impresses upon us, we come away recharged spiritually.

We come away in awe. We come away inspired.

You may find yourself writing a different kind of content, words that flow from your heart in adoration of our Savior, rather than marketing, writing goals, and manuscripts. If so, lean into it. Go with the words the Lord impresses upon you. Allow yourself to be refreshed in this season.

In the frenzy of the season, you may find inspiration, as you contemplate the chaos of the young couple battling the crowds to get into Bethlehem—Mary in labor, finding no place to give birth but a barn, most probably a cave under the noisy inn. Imagine birthing, perhaps alone, painfully, and with no idea of what would happen next. Take time to feel the paralyzing terror of the shepherds as they’re floored by the angelic host proclaiming the glory of God. Experience the wonder of the magi as they make their way across the desert in search of a colossal prediction.

Consider those predictions, the first one given at the moment of humanity’s fall. Ponder the foretelling woven all through the Old Testament, culminating in the arrival of Christ, with more to be fulfilled at his return.

What will this teach you? How will you be present in the moment to absorb the lesson the Lord has for you? For, he will indeed have a lesson, and it will be specifically for you.

Will you slow down? Will you pause in the moment when he impresses this truth upon you? Will you take the time to allow him to touch your heart? Will you look up and see Jesus there with hands outstretched, a gift especially for you?

Year by year, day by day, he wants us to experience even more of himself. What gift of himself does he have for you this year? Will you find it by seeking him with all your heart?

Melinda V Inman, Author of Refuge; Fallen; and No Longer Alone

Raised on the Oklahoma plains in a storytelling family, Melinda Viergever Inman now spins tales from her writer’s cave in the Midwest. Her faith-filled fiction illustrates our human story, wrestling with our brokenness and the storms that wreak havoc in our lives. Find her weekly at To find her work and to be notified of future published novels, follow her at


Thursday, December 6, 2018

What Readers Really Want from Authors By Janalyn Voigt

Sought-after with competitive fervor, readers’ email addresses are prized possessions for most authors. We’ll give away our beloved books, stay up late writing guest blog posts, and trade good money for list-building promotions. Anything to coax, bribe, or lure readers into our email lists. Capturing emails affirms us as authors. On a purely practical level, gaining access to reader email addresses allows us to communicate with them.

Ah, but there’s the problem.
We work hard to build our lists, then aren’t quite sure what to say to them. We’ve heard that we should build relationships, but what that entails remains unclear.  Uncertainty leads to guesswork or silence. The next book launch stirs the realization that a disengaged audience won’t buy many books.

It’s possible to solve this.
You may know authors who rely on charisma to reach readers. The rest of us need to work a little harder. Knowing what readers want from you eases the process. That’s not so hard to figure out, thankfully. Eavesdrop in book groups, and you’ll find words like love, hate, exciting, amazing, curious, and even sad flying about. Good stories enliven readers’ emotions and help them escape the doldrums of everyday living while they sail into vivid storyworlds. Readers may talk about well-turned plots, fulsome characters, and vivid description, but those are the means to an end.

Readers read primarily because of the way books make them feel. Small wonder they attach to any author who transports them through emotion.
You may have heard that readers join your email list not because they want your books but because they want you. That can be a daunting thought when you’re something of a private person, like me. Also, there may seem little of you left after all the time you spend writing, editing, and marketing.

It’s not so scary once you realize what readers really want.
They yearn to know what it’s like to write a book, appear at a book signing, hold your newest novel in your hands, endure your cat walking across the keyboard in the middle of a scene, and many more details of your life as a writer. This affords you a degree of privacy and is easier on your precious reserves of energy. You might write about other things on occasion (especially on topics within your books), but always from the perspective of an author. 

Common advice is not to write about yourself or you’ll lose subscribers. This may prove true if your whole focus is on yourself. The topic of your story might be yourself, but it’s possible to make it about your readers as well. Do this by tapping into universal emotions that connect us all.
What do readers really want? Give them the ongoing saga of your life as an author, told in a way that imparts something into their own lives.

Stagecoach to Liberty

Can a desperate young woman trust the handsome Irish stranger who wants to free her from her captors?  
Elsa Meier, a talented young Hessian girl who plays the hurdy-gurdy and dances, signs a contract to entertain miners in the Wild West. Elsa travels to America in the company of Miles and Alicia Peabody, the brother and sister who persuaded her mother to allow her to go. Elsa hopes for freedom and the chance to send money home to help her family. Instead she comes to the attention of a wealthy and unscrupulous man. On a stagecoach traveling into Montana Territory, Elsa conveys her peril to a handsome stranger with an Irish accent.  

Con Walsh, on a quest to find out the truth about himself, stumbles into a dangerous situation involving a frightened young woman in need of rescue. Despite his own pressing troubles, he finds that her safety matters to him more than his own.
Set in Montana during its gold rush -- a time troubled by outlaws, corruption and vigilante violence, Stagecoach to Liberty explores faith, love, and courage in the wild west. This story can stand alone or continue the saga that began with Hills of Nevermore and Cheyenne Sunrise.

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Janalyn Voigt fell in love with literature at an early age when her father read chapters from classics as bedtime stories. When Janalyn grew older, she put herself to sleep with tales "written" in her head.

Today Janalyn is a storyteller who writes in multiple genres. The same elements--romance, mystery, adventure, history, and whimsy--appear in all her novels in proportions dictated by their genre.
Learn more about Janalyn Voigt and the books she writes at
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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Writing Yourself Into a Corner by Dr. Richard L. Mabry, M.D.

I saw a mug the other day that brought a smile to my face. “Writer’s block: When your imaginary friends won’t talk to you.” Then again, maybe it’s not so funny, especially if you’re facing it.

It goes by many names. Writer’s block. Writing ourselves into a corner. Wondering what comes next. Stumped for an out. If we write enough, we’re going to face it someday. We’re going to put our heroine or hero in a situation from which we have no idea how they’re going to proceed.

This situation is probably less common in the plotter’s world, where things are laid out nicely before writing begins. But I suspect that somewhere in the plotting process even those authors stop for a time of head-scratching, wondering what comes next. If you, like me, are a pantser—a writer who plots by the seat of your pants—and especially one who writes mysteries, this problem rears its ugly head even more frequently.

What do you do if you find yourself facing such a situation? My first suggestion is to temporarily put aside the novel on which you’re working and start stringing words together on another piece. It seems that the harder we think about it and the more we try, the more difficult it is to come up with a solution. This sometimes leads the writer to doubt his or her ability. So, write something else. It may be a blog post. Perhaps it’s a magazine article you’ve been thinking about doing. The main thing is to take your mind off the current problem while shoring up what is undoubtedly the tendency for your self-confidence to fail. See? You can do it. You haven’t lost it.

It helps sometimes to step away from writing entirely—for an hour, a day, even a week— whatever your schedule allows. I’ve often found that solutions to seemingly insoluble problems come to me on the golf course. The answer depends on letting your mind rest while it subconsciously turns over the situation and decides how to solve it.

Stephen King calls it letting “the boys in the basement” take over. On more than one occasion I’ve awakened with an idea that pertains to my work-in-progress, an idea that eluded me when I went to sleep. In my current novella, Emergency Case, I had the idea of a doctor backing her car down the driveway after a snowfall and hitting what turned out to be a dead body. Good so far, but where did I go from there? Then I eventually awoke with the questions that sent me in the right direction. What if the doctor’s husband was an attorney? What if he’d been acting strangely lately? And what if the body represented one of his clients—and the police suspected him of being the killer? Thus, Emergency Case was born.

That’s what I do when faced with writer’s block. What about you?


Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician, now writing “medical mystery with heart.” His novels have garnered critical acclaim and been finalists for ACFW’s Carol Award, both the Romantic Times’ Inspirational Book of the Year and Reviewer’s Choice Awards, the Inspirational Readers Choice, and the Selah Award. He is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the International Thriller Writers, and Novelists Inc. Emergency Case is his latest novella.

He and his wife live in north Texas, where he writes, works on being the world’s greatest grandfather, and strives to improve his golf game. You can learn more about him at his website, and via his blog and Facebook page.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Expect the Unexpected by Laura V. Hilton

Christmas creche

This is the last month of the year and the last post I’ll write for this blog. I’m kind of sad to see it go, but at the same time, an unexpected opportunity to serve God and expand my boundaries sort of dropped in my lap.

Warning: Do NOT pray the following verse unless you mean it. God will take you up on it.

“And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!” And God granted him that which he requested.” 
1 Chronicles 4:10 (KVJ)

I was warned it was coming. But maybe I didn’t truly believe the ones who’d told me Someday… Maybe. Whatever the case, they were right. And I am sitting here in tears that God is expanding my coast in such a huge way. A seriously frightening way.
I am not adequate. I’m not good enough. Someone else could (and would) do better. How long will it take before people realize I’m a fraud? Normal human reactions. 


It’s December, and at this time of the year some people celebrate the birth of Christ. Yes, I know He probably was born in April. Yes, I know Christmas is a pagan holiday. 

That is not the point. 

The point is that from the beginning of time God has promised us a Savior. He first promised Adam and Eve in Genesis. People knew He was coming. They were warned.

How many hundreds (thousands?) of years went by with God using prophets, priests and kings to remind His people of the coming Savior?

And yet when He came, He was so unexpected. Angels delivered messages. The angelic choir sang. A star, brighter than any others, lit the sky. 

When God does something, He does it in a BIG way.

And yet, He was unexpected. 

No one was prepared for God’s promised Savior to arrive as a helpless baby, born to a poor couple, and grow up doing all the normal people things. Why didn’t He arrive in a blaze of glory, maybe a fiery chariot, with swords slashing, and a big voice that people automatically would hear and obey?

Well, okay, He kind of did. I don’t know about you, but if an angelic choir appeared to me to tell me the long-awaited Savior was here, I’d listen. I’d be in that group of shepherds trotting into Bethlehem to worship Him. 

And with that in mind, God has also promised that, long after Jesus’ death and resurrection, He would come again. 

This is expected! He promised! And this time, it WILL be in a blaze of glory!

And yet, if it happened today, would you be prepared? Or would He be unexpected? If you are a believer, would you be satisfied you are living your life in a way pleasing to Him? Would you be using the talents He gave you in a way that reaches others for Him?

If you are not a believer, the time is now, friend. He’s coming!

“But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Romans 10:8-10 (KJV)

Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief. Help me to listen to You and follow, wherever You lead. Help us to expect the unexpected. Amen.

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When God does something, He does it in a BIG way. And yet, He was unexpected. @laura_v_hilton #SeriouslyWrite

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.

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 blog:
Twitter: or @Laura_V_Hilton


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, December 3, 2018

Creating Magical Moments by Annette M. Irby

glass bell Christmas ornament*

On silent footfalls in the dim auditorium, the choir members made their way down the aisles to stand among the enraptured audience. 

Hark, how the bells
Sweet silver bells
All seem to say
Throw cares away

I held my breath. Closed my eyes. Their a cappella voices resounded off the ceiling, the walls, surrounding the audience. I lost myself in their notes, trying to capture the moment to savor later. I’ll never forget that concert.

Have you experienced something like that in a movie or a book or a concert? Where art takes you someplace meaningful, personal, and magical?

We authors have a chance to create those moments for readers. I’m guessing that like me, you can immerse yourself in the story world you’re writing. When you get into the zone, your senses are affected.

Recently, I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month—November). I lost myself in the story world at Christmastime and deeply experienced the emotions and setting where my characters lived. The snowstorm, the injury, the fudge. 😉 As I left my writing desk to tackle other tasks, I relived the scenes. I couldn’t wait to get back to that story. That’s how readers will feel, we hope. But when I returned to my computer, and read back through, I didn’t feel the same emotions. As the reader this time around, I needed help getting immersed (the author’s job) and found the scenes lacking. What happened? Obviously what was playing through my mind as I wrote it, wasn’t fully translated on the page. Probably, in my hurry to get the words down, I left out phrases that would tug my readers under water with me. So, I layered those in during the edits.

Here are some tips for layering in magical elements so that your readers will also experience them:

* Use the five senses. Let us taste the gingerbread, smell the sugar cookies baking, see the sparkling Christmas lights, hear the carols, and feel the hero or heroine’s hand in ours.

* Include a relatable, emotional tie-in. I’m writing a Christmas story, and almost everyone can feel nostalgic at Christmas. If I include a phrase or two that taps into that relatable element, readers may experience it with me. When readers relate, they bond with the story, with the author, and with the memory. Your story becomes memorable.

* Don’t expect the first draft to capture all that you’re feeling as you write it. In the first draft, let yourself fast draft—just get the words out. Include as many layers as you can, but don’t miss those phrases of dialogue that flow into your mind in favor of layers. Save the layering until the next read through, if there’s no time to do it immediately.

* Give yourself some distance. Once the rush of writing those scenes relents, give yourself some time off. Take a walk. Wash the car. Sleep on it. Then, come back and approach from a reader’s POV, rather than your writerly one. That’s when you’ll be objective enough to know what’s needed.

* Let crit partners in. Have someone you trust read it. This can be either a reader or a fellow writer (who is, of course, also a reader). Let them share how it impacted them. Tell them what you were going for. You are hoping it’s magical; they’ll let you know if it is.

* Read novels by other writers. And when you do, ask yourself if any of the scenes take your breath away, make you want to savor the moment. Those are magical scenes. Then, ask: what about this scene—or what led up to it—makes this a memorable and powerful scene? How did this author do that? How can I do it in my own writing? We writers are always learning the craft through study.

* Not every scene has to be magical. So much of what we write is ground work for those magical moments. The rest of the concert has faded from my memory, except that golden carol. That’s okay. As in life, not all story moments are magical.

Here’s to creating those magical moments that capture our readers, making our books memorable, encouraging people, showing light and hope.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must relive a choir concert in my imagination. Feel free to join me. The lights are dim, and the audience holds their breath. The choir forms a semi-circle within the audience, lifting their perfectly blended voices in an a cappella version of Carol of the Bells. 

Hark how the bells,
Sweet silver bells
All seem to say
Throw cares away
Christmas is here
Bringing good cheer
To young and old
Meek and the bold

Write on, friends!


FL on Bainbridge Island, Washington

Neither of them is ready for a relationship, but love may not give them an out.

Jenna-Shea Brown considers herself a broken therapist. Years ago, she witnessed something that caused PTSD. She can’t let her boss or her patients know about her battle. Who would want to trust her to help them, when she can’t help herself? She’s finally able to find a fresh start in her family’s beach cabin, but the renovations aren’t complete. Her parents have hired her ex-boyfriend to finalize them, but his negligence led to her being in the wrong place at the wrong time all those years ago. 

Liam Barrett is trying to prove he’s nothing like his deadbeat dad. He’s working hard, yet still failing. Adrenaline and adventure offer him a diversion, but maybe he can’t escape his genes. He’d like to make things right with Shea, but he’s unsure if she’ll forgive him. Meanwhile, he’s challenged to forgive his father. He’s also worried about Shea and all these episodes she won’t explain. Now that they’re back in close proximity, he’s falling for her again. But can anything heal the past?

Annette M. Irby**

Annette M. Irby has been writing since her teen years when she sat pounding out stories on a vintage typewriter just for fun. Since then, she’s joined Christian writing groups and launched blogs so she could share the joy of writing. She likes to say she’s addicted to color as flowers and seascapes inspire her. In her off hours, she enjoys gardening, photography, and music. She lives with her husband and family in the Pacific Northwest.

Learn more here on her Seriously Write Page

* Photo of Christmas bell ornament: Pixabay
** Author Photo credit: Sarah Irby at Irby Photos