Wednesday, October 31, 2018

It’s a Scary Writing World Out There! by Sandra Ardoin

When I was growing up, Halloween was a day when little kids ran from house to house, dressed in silly, sometimes too-large, costumes, and collected more candy than their tummies would comfortably allow them to consume in one evening. It was innocent fun—mostly, not a holiday recognized for pagan origins or costumes Freddy Krueger can appreciate. It wasn’t for teens and adults but for children.

What does Halloween have to do with writing? Nothing but my strained imagination. It occurred to me that the more serious we become about publishing, the spookier the writing life gets.

When we first dream up an epic story of love, inspiration, or adventure—when we’re writer-tots—we have such innocent attitudes toward the business. We put on our writer costume and na├»vely set out to gather treats while traipsing the publishing path. As time passes and our hard work racks up refusals, when our hopes for publication begin to dim, we suddenly realize we’ve entered…

The Eerie Woods of the Rejected

Photo Courtesy of Jordan Stimpson / Pixabay

It’s dark in there, and we have no idea when, or if, we’ll ever find our way out. Ooh, there’s that voice that hisses in an unnerving tone, “You’re wasting your time. You’re a failure. Your work will never see publication. Turn back before it’s too late.”

But stubbornness kicks in, and we trudge forward.

Then, through the skeletal trees, we spot a beam of encouragement—a contest win or a request for a full manuscript. We creep forward, ignoring the moaning and groaning around us. Eventually, we break out into the glorious meadow of our first publishing sale.

But wait!

As we bask in the full moon that shines on our achievement, fog billows behind us and clouds roll in to cover the moon with doubts that we can achieve the same or greater success. The trolls of marketing chase us into the path of the ogre of procrastination and we dodge the sharp claws of the writer’s block beast.

Okay. Enough of that nonsense. The point is this. The more we grow in our abilities and experience—the more we study craft—the scarier the writing life can become, because we know more about it. These days, we hear that the Christian fiction market is fading, traditional publishing slots are shrinking, Amazon and other retailers are glutted with books. There seems no end to the bad news.

But you know what? You don’t have to cower in front of your computer. If God is behind your writing endeavor, He’ll prepare the way, even if your words are only meant to encourage or inspire one other person in their walk. Are you knocking on His door to receive His encouraging treat?

Today, share one thing about the writing life that scares you, and then share why you continue to follow that path.

Speaking of spooky (or not), in February 2019, my historical romance novella A Love Most Worthy releases. Do you want to see the cover? I'm dying to reveal it... 

**sigh** I can't until after my newsletter community sees it in a couple of weeks. 

(Oh, yes. Consider that my idea of a Halloween trick. :) )


Sandra Ardoin engages readers with page-turning stories of love and faith. She’s the author of the heartwarming novella, The Yuletide Angel and the award-winning novel, A Reluctant Melody. Look for the mail-order bride novella A Love Most Worthy coming in February 2019. 

Rarely out of reach of a book, she's also an armchair sports enthusiast, country music listener, and seldom says no to eating out. Visit her at Subscribe to receive updates and specials. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and BookBub.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

How to Add Flair to Your Fall Social Media Posts by DiAnn Mills

DiAnn Mills
It may be nearing 100° where you live, but school is in session for most and the theme is fall for our northern hemisphere. Social media is transitioning from juicy strawberries and plump blueberries to apples and pumpkins. Even if we don’t feel like turning our thoughts toward autumn, the calendar indicates it’s time.

Transition into the season with color. That seems like a no-brainer, but color is emotional, and the warm shades of orange paired with gold, brown, and scarlet coax the reader into a psychological change of season. When the opportunity arises, look at background and font colors.

Switch to fall images for memes. The adage, a picture is worth a thousand words is true for our meme choices. The choice of images point to mood, emotion, and blog theme. When we reflect the season into our posts, the reader can resonate with what we’re saying.

Choose words that symbolize autumn. Think about the words that mean a tangible item but also represents something else. Consider the following words and how they can express deep feelings and expressions to your social media post or blog.

  1. Change: as the leaves change colors and days grow shorter, perhaps our views and attitudes about our social media posts need a new perspective.
  2. Comfort: we soothe and calm ourselves by adding extra layers of clothes, inviting friends for cozy and intimate fellowship, and the art of coffee, spice teas, cider, and hot chocolate play a role in satisfying our hearts.
  3. Harvest: gathering the fields represents a harvest of the mind, a time to renew learning.
  4. Maturity: seasons of life show autumn is a time of reflection and wisdom.
  5. Preservation: mother nature has been busy getting ready for the months ahead. Look at animals and the busy farmer. We too are reconnecting with ourselves and making plans that differ from summer fun. Our posts are indications of preserving the past, present, and future.
Let’s welcome in the new season with posts that embrace our readers with meaning and inspiration. How do you plan to usher in fall with your social media posts?

Click to Tweet: 3 great tips to add flair to your #socialmedia posts by @diannmills on #SeriouslyWrite. #fall #socialmediatips
    About the Author

    DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

    Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall. You can download a list of her published titles by clicking here.

    DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association; International Thriller Writers, and the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter of Romance Writers of America. She is co-director of Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

    DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

    DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at

    Burden of Proof
    by DiAnn Mills

    Reeling from a negotiation gone wrong, FBI Special Agent April Ramos is caught off guard when a frazzled young woman shoves a crying baby into her arms, then disappears. Worry for the child’s safety quickly turns to fear when a man claiming to be the girl’s father abducts them at gunpoint. April puts her hostage negotiation skills to use to learn more about who she’s dealing with: Jason Snyder, a fugitive accused of murder.

    As Jason spins a tall tale about being framed for the killing of his business partner, April must sort through his claims to find the truth. A truth that becomes all the more evident after April overhears a conversation between Jason and the local sheriff and realizes something more sinister may be happening in their small town of Sweet Briar, Texas. But aligning herself with a known fugitive to uncover the burden of proof could cost April her job . . . or worse, her life and the lives of other innocent people.

    Burden of Proof is recommended for fans of the following:

    Romantic Suspense
    Christian Fiction
    FBI Crime Solving Novel
    Clean Romance

    Monday, October 29, 2018

    Finding Your Brand by Amy Rognlie

    Amy Rognlie

    Hi, friends. Annette here. Today's guest is fellow Mountain Brook Ink author, Amy K. Rognlie. Do you have a well-established brand? Or perhaps you're beginning to build it. Amy's advice on finding our brand is full of wisdom. Read on!

    Finding Your Brand
    by Amy Rognlie

    I recently attended a writer’s retreat, where we had the inevitable discussion about author branding. We defined brand not simply as our slogans or the look of our book covers, but as who we are as people. We talked about examining our work and finding the common thread that ran through all our stories—a recurring theme that always shines through our work.

    You are your “brand.” Your themes come out of our personal experiences, so it seems like it should be easy to discover your own personal themes. But it sometimes takes time and retrospection to see the common thread. A writer friend recently discovered that all his books have the theme of second chances and new seasons. Why? Because that’s the story of his life. Redemption.

    For me, I was well past writing my fourth or fifth book when it dawned on me that the overarching theme of every one of my books is hope. But not just hope. True hope that shines even through difficult circumstances because it is a hope grounded in God’s faithfulness. Thus my slogan, “Real Characters. Real Issues. Real Faith.”

    Maybe you can pinpoint immediately what your main theme is. Or maybe like my friend Bruce, you’ll have to purposely set out to discover your theme. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

    1. Look at your own life story. What is God constantly bringing up in your life? Has He taught you to trust Him during difficult times? Or maybe you’ve finally learned to set boundaries. Or face your fears. Or overcome a terminal illness. How does your experience shine through the maybe not-so-fictional experiences of your characters?
    2. Another way to ferret out your theme is to think of your three favorite movies. What are the themes of those movies? Grace under fire? Love conquers all? What goes around comes around? Whatever it is, it’s probably pretty close to your own theme.
    3. Examining reader feedback is also valuable. Look at your reviews. What chord are you striking with your readers? If the same thing is mentioned over and over, that’s a clue to your theme.

    But why is it important to know your theme? As believers in Jesus Christ, the main reason is this: “So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose.” Romans 8:28 (The Passion Translation)

    The events of our lives are not random. God Himself has given your life a theme. He is the author of your story. And He has a higher purpose than we could ever fathom. Every life experience—good or bad—is redeemed when we choose to repurpose it to proclaim His faithfulness through our pen. Would you let Him do that through you today?

    Where There's a Will by Amy Rognlie

    Where There’s A Will

    A mysterious postcard, a decades-old mystery, and a cranky realtor have suddenly thrown Callie Erickson’s plans into a tailspin. Callie, Todd and friends have their hearts set on building Hope House, a home for sex-trafficking victims. But before they can make much headway, Callie is confronted with the mysterious death of someone much closer to her than she’d like.

    Was it murder? Callie isn’t so sure, but with Todd’s help, she’s doing her best to find out, even as she is drawn deeper into their relationship. Can she trust herself to love him? In the meantime, Aunt Dot and Harry are dealing with intrigue of their own. Will Harry’s missing relatives ever be found? As Callie delves deeper, she learns startling answers to these questions and to the questions of her own heart.

    Amy Rognlie writes inspirational fiction, including mysteries and historical novels. She also blogs regularly on devotional topics on her website, 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, granddaughter, dogs (including a pug, of course), and a plethora of plants, yarn, and books.

    Friday, October 26, 2018

    Eternal Chances by C. Kevin Thompson

    C. Kevin Thompson
    I recently read an article about the movie Gosnell. It seems Hollywood—and the theater companies who are married to the driving forces behind Hollywood—have an issue when someone makes a movie about the truth…especially when the writers shine a light into the darkness and expose the ugliness of sin. And if that exposure tackles a political hot potato, then look out!

    If you’re not familiar with the story of Kermit Gosnell, all you have to do is Google it. It’s a sad and sickening commentary on the nature of humankind and how man justifies sin (cf. Genesis 6:5; Proverbs 6:18; Matthew 15:18-19).

    But this blog isn’t about Gosnell. It’s about the world in which a person like Kermit Gosnell could prosper to the tune of two million dollars a year during the height of his heinous medical practice. It’s about a world wherein writers, like the ones who crafted the screenplay for the movie that recently hit theaters, could be blackballed and run out of theaters, even though the movie grossed earnings beyond expectations, placing it in the top twelve during its opening weekend, according to Box Office Mojo.

    We live in enemy territory, you and me. As we are routinely reminded, by both our pastors’ sermons and the daily news, this world we live, work, and play in is not our home. Our home is being prepared (John 14:2). Our home is yet to come. So, we should not be surprised when our writings get rejected, receive poor reviews, or simply rub people the wrong way. It should also not surprise us when the venues through which our craft is offered start to challenge what we have written on the pages of our manuscript.

    A fellow author told me a story recently wherein the publisher kept “rewriting” the manuscript and sending it back to the author for approval because it contained too much “Christianese.” This is the flip side of this coin I discuss today. We should not be surprised if publishers—who are not overtly Christian at their core—want to “tone down” the Christian rhetoric of our carefully crafted sentences. They are trying to sell books in a world that is growing darker by the day. They are trying to expand and reach a readership that is not as interested in spiritual things as we are. In essence, it’s about money and bottom lines and avoiding unemployment.

    So, where do we go from here?

    Well, we can write Christian titles that preach to the choir. Ones that have a little suspense. Have a little romance. Have a little mystery. Have a little Christmas. And sell them to Christian publishers who choose to play it financially safe. But the problem is, that readership is dwindling (I’ve read reviews where readers are bemoaning the formulaic style of writing that has taken over the romantic suspense genre; they are vowing to stop purchasing such titles).

    Dwindling opportunities for writers are also evidenced by the smaller and smaller windows Christian publishers have open these days. All one has to do is look at young adult fiction for an example of what I’m talking about. It seemed that was all anybody wanted a few years ago as they tried to ride the Harry Potter and Twilight bandwagons. Now, when you attend a Christian writer’s conference, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a publisher who wants to even look at YA.

    So, what’s an author to do? Keep writing. Continue to develop wholesome stories. Stories can exemplify truth without being blatantly snooty about it. Biblical truth can be woven into a story without taking on the form of a sledgehammer. They can be realistic without being grotesque or sappy. But they can’t be written if you don’t keep writing. They can’t be published if you don’t keep submitting them for consideration.

    So, what are you waiting for? The writers of the movie Gosnell are assuredly discouraged by what’s occurring, even though I’m sure they knew this might happen. However, I wonder how many people, who have seen the movie so far, will have their lives changed for eternity because these folks took a chance?

    Will you “chance it,” too?

    30 Days Hath Revenge

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

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

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

    C. KEVIN THOMPSON is a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a kid at heart. Often referred to as “crazy” by his grandchildren, it’s only because he is. He’s a writer. Need he say more?

    The first three books of his Blake Meyer Thriller series are out! Book 1, 30 Days Hath Revenge; Book 2, Triple Time; and Book 3, The Tide of Times, are now available! Book 4, When the Clock Strikes Fourteen is coming soon! Also, the second edition of his award-winning debut novel, The Serpent’s Grasp, is now available!

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

    Kevin’s Writer’s Blog:
    Twitter: @CKevinThompson
    Goodreads: C. Kevin Thompson

    Thursday, October 25, 2018

    When You Don't Think You're Good Enough by Robin E. Mason

    Every writer, truly every artist, at some time or another, feels unworthy. That their work falls short of some standard. And perhaps, sometimes it does.

    But I’ve learned something—perfection is a cruel and impossible taskmaster, excellence a kinder, more forgiving goal. We all have them, those days we can conquer anything. And we do. We tick off those items on our never-ending to-do list, and settle with a good cuppa to enjoy the fruit of our labors. Other days, though, our 112% barely grazes one or two of those bits. Bits that have become insurmountable.

    I don’t know about you, but those days crush me. Or, they used to. And when I was striving for the elusive and impossible perfection, those days were EVERY day.

    But two things happened. Or, rather, one thing precipitated the other—God’s grace relieved me of an impossible burden, and with that, the freedom to grow and excel in my writing. Still, those days creep in sometimes. And what are we to do when that happens?

    I offer you what I used to tell my kids when somebody said something about them; ask yourself one question: “Is it true?” When those niggling doubts creep in—“Your writing is abominable.” “This story is stupid.” “That character just isn’t believable.” “No one wants to read this!—ask yourself if it’s true.”

    Does no one really want to read this? Ah! This is the question, isn’t it? To me, this is the heart of why we write. Whether “just” for entertainment or with deep spiritual meaning, do we not write for others to read? I know I do. Of course I’d love to be a New York Times bestseller. Why wouldn’t I want my stories made into movies?

    But even if that never happens, even if I never sold another book—HUSH MY MOUTH!—I know I have an Audience who will never disparage or belittle my writing. Coach me, yes. Encourage me, certainly. But never will He shred my efforts, no matter how weak.

    I write, we all write, ultimately for an Audience of One. One who has instilled in us our love of and passion for, and dare I say, skill with words. And when He is pleased with our efforts, if not our finesse, then who are we to argue?

    Do we stop striving to our best? Not at all. Does this mean we can be lazy and sloppy? Certainly not. We offer our very best to Him. And He is pleased with that.

    I saw a quote the other day, attributed to Priscilla Shirer:
    And that’s exactly it.

    The next time you feel you don’t measure up—and there will be a next time—remember Who holds the measuring stick. And gauge yourself by His measure.

    “Maybe you have to know the darkness to truly appreciate the light.” —Madeline L’Engle

     Robin E. Mason writes stories of identity conflict. Her characters encounter situations that force the question, “Who am I really?” For all who have ever wondered who you are or why you’re here, her stories will touch you in a very real—maybe too real—and very deep way. “I know, I write from experience.”


    Wednesday, October 24, 2018

    Making a Difference by J.E.B. Spredemann

    Do you ever wonder if you’re making a difference as an author? I know I do. Sometimes authorship can seem one-sided, but we must remember that it isn’t. As a matter of fact, books have the power to touch lives in ways we may never know—for good or bad.

    As a Christian author, my desire is for readers to draw closer to the Saviour through my books. Whether it be meeting Jesus for the first time or learning more about His goodness and grace, I want to have a positive influence in someone’s life.

    I believe that authors have a unique opportunity—the chance to reach thousands (or millions!) of people we may never meet, and have an impact on their lives. Isn’t that thought overwhelming? And exciting?

    I think of my book An Unforgivable Secret, which tackles a tough topic. After about a year or

    so after its release, I decided to make it available to readers for free. Free, you say? What value is there in that? Much, I believe. Have you ever eaten a free sample of something at Costco or Trader Joe’s, then go on to purchase it? If you’re like me, if you really liked it, you not only purchased the item that one time, but continue to do so. So, by offering me a small sample once, I’ve now probably spent hundreds of dollars on their products. Not bad advertising. It’s the same with books. If someone reads just one and loves it, chances are, they’ll go on to find other books you’ve written.

    Anyway, back to An Unforgivable Secret, my free book which now has over eleven hundred reviews. Yes, you read that right! But the number isn’t important to me, although it is nice. J What’s more important to me is the life-changing potential. Consider this reader’s response, “I really related to this character. I cried out to God while reading it.” Or this one, “The message in this book will bring inner healing to all who have experienced the loss of a loved one.” Or this, “I was greatly blessed by reading this book. Thank you for your beautiful words of hope.”

    Wow! To think that God would use me—an introvert who isn’t so great at talking—to touch someone’s life.

    I’d like to encourage you (and myself) today to keep on writing what God places on your heart. We may not see the results until we’re on the other side of eternity, but God gave us our gifts for a reason, and that’s to bring glory to Him. With all my heart, I pray this is what my writing will do. So if you’re discouraged in your writing journey at the moment, don’t give up! God has a plan and He will see it through. Let’s just do our part and leave the results up to God, and you never know how you may make a difference in a reader’s life.

    J.E.B. Spredemann
    Different Amish Fiction

    J.E.B. Spredemann seeks to pen compelling stories that captivate readers and bring glory to GOD. She has authored over two dozen Amish fiction titles in her can't-put-down writing style, two of which have won awards. She resides in Indiana Amish Country with her family on a former Amish farm where the documentary Breaking the Silence was filmed. "...Spredemann weaves a thread of love and intrigue into a quilt of faith and values." - reader review

    Hannah has a good life. A beautiful home, a loving husband, and a wonderful Amish

    community are only a few of her daily blessings. But she has carried a heavy burden for years: a secret that no one must know. When tragedy strikes, her secret threatens to be revealed, jeopardizing everything she’s ever loved. Will Hannah be able to face her greatest fear and find God's purpose for her life?

    My latest release: Blurb: One woman's search for answers...One little girl's fight for her life...Will they both find a miracle this Christmas season? Joseph and Anna Bender find fulfillment in raising their family and helping out at the local homeless shelter. When their oldest daughter falls ill, can they learn to trust God--even if He denies their petitions to save their little girl? Candace Dixon's life in California is about to be turned upside down as she discovers the truth of her past. When her job as a wedding planner brings her to Pennsylvania Amish country, she gets much more than what she bargained for. Can a young Amish girl help her discover what she's been missing? Find faith, hope, and love in this heartwarming Christmas tale.

    Tuesday, October 23, 2018

    The Goldfish Myth Still Matters by Marie Wells Coutu

    A Goldfish and His Castle
    Goldfish have a longer attention span than the average person in 2018. Maybe.

    Or maybe not. A Google search on “attention spans” produces articles stating the average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds now. And that the attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds.

    On the other hand, the BBC talked to several researchers and concluded, “Goldfish don't have short attention spans or memories. There is no evidence human attention spans are shrinking.”

    Even Twitter expanded its message limit from 140 characters to 280. Perhaps users are willing to read longer messages.

    In our world of smartphones, time-limited social media, channel-flipping, and multi-tasking, it seems obvious that audiences make quick decisions on what they will pay attention to.

    What does this mean for writers?

    Whether attention spans are shrinking or not, the rapid assault of information and the multiplying sources vying for attention make capturing readers more challenging.

    “The key to engaging content is a compelling narrative combined with stimulating visuals and dialogue,” said one marketing technology company reporting on the 2018 State of Attention Report from Prezi.

    Prezi is a presentation software company, and the article was directed at business professionals. However, the conclusion applies to fiction writers, too.

    The average novel today is shorter than it was a hundred years ago. Chapters are often as short as two pages, paragraphs have shrunk, and descriptive passages certainly have to be more concise. (I still remember slogging through pages of description of the moors in Wuthering Heights.)

    But engaging readers doesn’t happen only by shortening your content. It takes that “compelling narrative” and believable, gripping dialogue. While you won’t have visuals unless you’re writing a children’s book, you can provide “stimulating” descriptions that enable the reader to visualize the characters and settings.

    Many readers decide whether to buy your book after reading the first paragraph. Like a goldfish, they give you only seconds before rejecting your story and moving on.

    In other words, the key to holding a reader’s attention is excellent craft.

    Don’t let your own short attention span (you just got an idea for the next story and you can’t wait to write it) cause you to bypass the difficult work of revising and editing to make your current work-in-progress the best it can be.

    That’s what will attract readers and keep them coming back for more.

    About the Author

    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.

    The Secret Heart by Marie Wells Coutu
    You can find more about Marie and her novels on her Facebook page (Author Marie Wells Coutu), at her website (, or follow her on Twitter (@mwcoutu) or on

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