Friday, July 19, 2019

Don’t Let Life Pass You By – JoAnn Durgin

Meme with Henry Miller Quote: "One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things."

Don’t Let Life Pass You By

When most people randomly pass by an unusual or intriguing scene, they might stop and think, “Well, that’s interesting.” Then they’ll likely move on and forget about it. Creative minds, however, approach a situation from a completely different perspective. As writers, we often record “mental snapshots” from our daily lives. Why? They sometimes reveal a truth about the human condition—those things of life that bind us all together. For whatever reason, they affect us on a deeply personal level, and we don’t want to forget them. Without fail, those moments also raise questions in our mind. Whether or not we ever draw upon the inspiration in a story or a book, the memory becomes embedded inside us.

Although I’ve stored up many “mental snapshots,” here are a handful I’ve never forgotten:

*A pair of well-worn men’s cowboy boots sitting on a step, seemingly abandoned, in downtown Dallas.

*In Rome, a handsome young priest walking away from St. Peter’s. His robes flowed about him and pigeons perched on his outstretched arms while beggar children clamored for his attention.

*A man dressed all in black meeting with a steady parade of girls visiting his corner table at the fast food restaurant in London’s Piccadilly Circus.

*A young woman running on the sidewalk in front of a suburban Boston Marriot on a Saturday at midnight—dressed in wedding finery—alone and barefoot.

Now, here are five poignant scenes I witnessed on a single morning as I drove to work:

*Four elderly women standing outside a Catholic church, arms linked, waiting to cross the street.

*An older man carrying a plastic bag and using a long metal stick to pick up trash on the side of the road—a common sight in his white T-shirt and jeans, shoulders slumped, mouth downturned.

*A homeless man wheeling a heavy cart on a downtown city street. Puffing on a cigarette, he pokes around in a garbage can with his bare hands.

*With school buses lined up in front of a local museum, a little girl runs up the stairs to grab the hand of her assigned partner.

*An ambulance, siren blaring and lights flashing, pauses and then speeds through an intersection.

Writers should always be observers, listeners, and students of life. Be open and be aware. Question, think, and then write from the heart. While many, if not most, of life’s lessons are learned at home, if you’re short on inspiration, change it up—get out of the house! Effective writing taps into emotions and feelings on a visceral level that translates into the lives of your characters. In turn, these “people” become real and jump off your story into the hearts and minds of readers.

Until the next time, embrace and observe life…and then write it down to share with others.


*Modified significantly from the original version of “Don’t Let Life Pass You By” on the blog, Reflections in Hindsight: Grace in the Rearview Mirror…it’s closer than it appears, March 9, 2011.

The Piccadilly Circus vignette referred to in this blog is referenced fictionally in the life of my heroine in A Serendipity Christmas (featured below).

Why writers should create "mental snapshots"! #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @Gr8tReads

Short on inspiration? Change it up—get out of the house! #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @Gr8tReads

A Serendipity Christmas
A Serendipity Christmas

The holiday season has rolled around once again, and the townspeople of quaint Serendipity, Pennsylvania, are preparing for their annual Christmas Challenge. This year, the funds raised from the various events and activities will benefit the continuing relief efforts in the aftermath of a brutal hurricane season.

Victoria (Tori) Harper agrees to participate in the more physically demanding sporting events of The Christmas Challenge alongside her brother and new father, Donovan, on behalf of his HarperMorgan Advertising Agency. But why has Donovan invited the insufferable and irritatingly appealing Henry Adams to join their team? The man seems determined to drive her to distraction, but Tori’s not about to fall under the charms of a handsome man with a smooth line, even delivered with Henry’s irresistible British accent.

As the youngest attorney in town, Henry has grown to love little Serendipity, and especially his verbal sparring sessions with Victoria Harper in The Coffee Nook and elsewhere around town. She might call him a Snooty Scrooge, but he’s determined to win her heart. If he can’t win that personal challenge by the end of the holiday season, he might as well move on and accept a tempting job offer from a New York law firm.

The second in The Serendipity Christmas Series (following The Christmas Challenge), join Henry as he seeks to win Tori’s love and they’re both reminded of how God is always faithful in His promises. A beautiful celebration of love, faith, family, small-town charm, and the true miracles of the Christmas season!

JoAnn Durgin
JoAnn Durgin is a USA Today bestselling author of more than thirty contemporary Christian romance novels, including her signature Lewis Legacy Series. A native of southern Indiana, JoAnn likes to say she’s “been around in the nicest sense of the word” after living in four states across the country before returning to her hometown with her husband and three children. When she’s not writing, JoAnn loves to travel and spend time with their first grandchild, Amelia Grace. Feel free to connect with her at or via her website at

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Lessons Writers Can Learn From Throwing Axes by Sandy Kirby Quandt

Recently my husband, son, and I went to a local axe-throwing establishment. Right off let me say I loved it. Two hours hurling axes at a wooden target and scoring multiple bull’s eyes, what's not to love?
There were groups of all ages and axe throwing abilities. Some of us were newbies and it showed. Others like the bearded, Viking-hair-shaved, kilt wearer who brought his personal bag of axes were obvious pros.
As I threw axes at targets, I realized there are lessons writers can learn from throwing axes.
• In axe throwing if we're going to hit the target, we have to get in the game, grab an axe, step up to the line, and throw the axe toward the target in front of us. As writers, if we want our words to hit the target and find an audience, we need to get in the game, step up to the line, and put our words on the page.
• If we hurl an axe toward the target and it doesn't stick the first, second, even third time, we pick the axe off the floor and throw it again. If our first attempts to hit the publishing target bounce off the wall and land with a solid thud to the ground for all the world to hear, we pick up that manuscript and send it into the publishing world again.
• Just because our axe hits a bull’s eye once doesn't mean we'll score another bull’s eye on the next go round. Nevertheless, we keep trying. We may score an acceptance with one manuscript then miss with the next one we pitch. Nevertheless, we keep trying.
• When we throw the axe and it doesn’t score a bull’s eye, we don't discount the 1s, 2s, and 3s we have scored. All points big and small add up for the grand total. They don’t have to all be bull’s eyes. Each step forward in our writing journey is important no matter how small we may feel it is. We don’t dismiss those which seem insignificant in comparison to our overall goal.
There are no disqualifiers for hitting the target - wooden or written. What truly matters is a willingness to get in the game, grab that axe, step up to the line, and give it our best shot. Over and over and over again. Enjoying each step of the journey along the way.

Sandy Kirby Quandt is a former elementary school educator and full-time writer with a passion for God, history, and travel; passions that often weave their way into her stories and articles. She has written numerous articles, devotions, and stories for adult and children publications. Her devotions appear in two Worthy Publishing compilation books; So God Made a Dog, and Let the Earth Rejoice. She has won several awards for writing including the 85th and 86th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition in the Young Adult category, First Place in the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference Children’s Literature 2016 Foundation Awards, First Place in the 2017 Foundation Awards in the Young Adult, Middle Grade, and Flash Fiction categories. Looking for words of encouragement or gluten-free recipes? Then check out Sandy’s blog, Woven and Spun.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Branding: Why do I have to have a Blog? by Patty Smith Hall

Patty here. I’d hoped to introduce my newly designed webpage and show how I’d incorporated my brand into it, but technical problems are causing a delay. So today, we’re going to press ahead and talk about social media, in particular, your blog.

Now, if you don’t have a blog, that’s okay. There are a lot of writers who, for various reasons, hate to blog, me included. It’s one of those things that you either fully commit to or don’t even want to start. For years, I’ve tried (and failed) at starting my own blog.

But recently, my husband gave me a compelling reason to try again. A little background information—Danny has always been interested in the business side of my work which is great seeing as I’d rather be writing. So a few weeks ago, I gave him Edie Melson’s book on social media, hopeful that he could help me get a grip on my own. He read it in a week between downtime at his job and actually made a list of talking points he wanted to go over with me. On the three-hour ride to my mother-in-law’s house, we talked about the list. One of his questions jumped out at me.

“Why don’t you blog?”

Because I’m too lazy. Because I’d rather be making up stories than blogging. Because I don’t have anything to say. “Because I don’t like it,” I answered, thinking the matter was settled.
“Besides, I write once a month for a writer’s blog.”

He shook his head. “The book says you need to blog at least two to three times a week. And what about your readers? They don’t read writer’s blogs.”

I was beginning to dislike Edie and her stupid book. “What would I say? It’s not like I’m that interesting.”

He reached over and squeezed my hand. “You’re a lot more interesting than you think. How many people do you know who actually took a gold-mining class so she’d know how her characters felt in a book? Or what about the time you talked that WWII bomber pilot at Love Field into showing you how to take off and land a Spitfire so you could describe it correctly.” He nodded. “Stuff like that would be popular with your readers.”

Danny was right. I never considered that my readers would like the story behind the story. Danny’s idea had a lot of merit and stayed in line with my brand as a history nerd. Just because you’ve bombed out of a blog in the past doesn’t mean you can’t have success with it now, especially if it will help build your brand.

How to get started

Before you start, you need to be ready to commit to writing for your blog at least two days a week, three if you can. This builds up a trust in your readership that you will be there for the long haul. Trust is important. Remember, we’re building relationships.

If you have an author website, most have an option to add pages. Use one of these to start your blog. If you don’t have a website yet, it might be a good time to consider starting one. Most publishers want their authors to have a presence on the internet. Building a following before your first contract shows them you’re serious about your work. I use Wix because it’s easy and even someone with my limited tech skills can build a great looking webpage. Wix (as well as GoDaddy and Wordpress) have templates to help you design your page. Once your webpage goes live, you’re ready to post your first blog.

A little side note—when you start to set up your webpage and other social media, go with one name across all medias. It makes it easier for people to find you. When you’re ready to post your first blog, remember to connect it to your Goodreads and Facebook pages (as well as your Amazon page if you’re published.) It’s a good way to generate traffic to your webpage.

I’ve got a blog. Now what?

Consider your brand. Do you write books that feature bakers or chefs? Then share recipes. Medical romances? Talk about the research you have to do to make it realistic or share why you write what you write. Or if you’re a nurse, tell a funny doctor story. Talk about your favorite writing place—one of my most commented posts on Facebook were of pictures I took while writing at a local lake. It was basically the same view every day, but people love it—and my readers knew I was working on something new.

More suggestions:

1)  The first chapter from an upcoming book of another author.

2) A weekly chapter from a novella you’ve written.

3) Pictures/Videos of things you’re doing.

4) Devotionals.
The important thing to is be yourself. Your brand is you.

Homework: Check out the blogs of writers in your genre. Come up with two or three ideas that will promote your brand.

Just because you’ve bombed out of a blog in the past doesn’t mean you can’t have success with it now. via @pattywrites #SeriouslyWrite #Blogging #AuthorBrand


A multi-published author with Love Inspired Historical and Barbour, Patty lives in North Georgia with her husband of 35 years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters, her son-in-love and a grandboy who has her wrapped around his tiny finger. When she’s not writing on her back porch, she’s spending time with her family or working in her garden.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Unexpected Fireworks by Shannon Moore Redmon

Like many Americans, over the fourth of July my family vacationed at our favorite lake spot for some fun, relaxation and fireworks. We enjoyed a calm couple of days on the water.

But our second night there, something unexpected happened. A neighbor’s boat dock, across the cove, caught fire.

At three-thirty in the morning, we awoke as trucks sped up and down the street. This was unusual for our quiet neighborhood. No one causes a commotion that late at night or the sheriff gets a call.

We thought perhaps a party had run late and people were leaving. Then my mother spotted orange flames glowing against the blackness of the water. We all ran outside for a closer look.

The men of my family wanted to help. They hopped in the boat to make sure everyone was okay. My mother and I stayed behind, watching from a distance.

Thankfully, no human life was injured or lost. Only the owner’s pontoon and his brand-new, just-purchased a few days ago boat, went up in flames. Nothing was left of the double decker dock except the metal frame.

The culprit? An overturned firework that wreaked havoc on the floating objects in its path.

No one expected the purchased sparklers to cause so much damage. The group wanted to celebrate Independence Day, see a good show and enjoy the fun. But instead chaos ensued.

We need to give our readers the same kind of unexpected fireworks on the page. Create chaos in our stories. Pull them from their relaxed lives into the tension and conflict of our characters.

How do we do this?

1) Unexpected Hook/Twist – Give them an unpredictable opening, clutching them into the story the same way our neighbor’s flames pulled my family out of bed at three-thirty AM. Even my college age son got up with interest. I haven’t seen that boy so alert since he finished high school.

2) Explode on the first page - Give the reader action and adventure, suspense and mystery or love and tension, depending on the genre. Something to grab them on the opening page and keep them turning until the end. No one wants to read about the color of the trees or flowers when an all-out fire is taking place across the bay.

3) Spread the fire - Each chapter needs fuel to keep the story burning. A bit of information or action to keep the adventure in motion all the way until the climax at the end.

4) Satisfying ending - Our neighbor plans to rebuild his dock and had insurance money to cover the boats. He will be fine. And so will your readers when a rewarding resolution ends the story.

Time to gather up those bottle rockets and Roman candles to create one completely satisfying pyrotechnic display of writing!

Give readers fuel in every chapter to keep the story burning @shannon_redmon @MaryAFelkins #amwriting #SeriouslyWrite

Shannon Redmon remembers the first grown up book she checked out from the neighborhood book mobile. A Victoria Holt novel with romance, intrigue, dashing gentlemen and ballroom parties captivated her attention. For her mother, the silence must have been a pleasant break from non-stop teenage chatter, but for Shannon, those stories whipped up a desire and passion for writing.
There's nothing better than the power of a captivating novel, a moving song or zeal for a performance that punches souls with awe. A rainbow displayed after a horrific storm or expansive views on a mountaintop bring nuggets of joy into our lives. Shannon hopes stories immerse readers into that same kind of amazement, encouraging faith, hope and love, guiding our hearts to the One who created us all.

Shannon’s writing has been published in Spark magazine, Splickety magazine, the Lightning Blog, The Horse of My Dreams compilation book, Romantic Moments compilation book, Seriously Write blog and Jordyn Redwood’s Medical Edge blog. Her current fiction novel was selected as a top three finalist of the 2018 ACFW Genesis Contest and she is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.

Connect with Shannon:
The StoryMoore Blog, named in memory of her father, Donald Eugene Moore.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Never Give Up by Patty Nicholas

Last week I had the honor of helping my mother clean out my late father’s office. We had gone through all of the important papers a few years ago, but this time was all about his books. Hundreds of books acquired over a lifetime of collecting.

My dad was a professional editor for several scientific publications, however his passion was the art of the story. He loved reading as much as he loved writing. While he supported his family editing for science writers, he always wanted to put together, and sell a great novel, and it showed in the multitude of books he had on the craft of writing.

Unfortunately, he passed away before his dream was realized, but he never gave up. My mother mentioned how she used to fall asleep listening to the click of the keyboard as he wrote into the wee hours of the morning. I have fond memories of the different stories he would tell every time we would get together.

As I went through his books, my initial thoughts and emotions were of sadness. He worked so hard, and never saw his deepest desires of sharing his stories with the world, yet, after contemplating my time in my childhood home and with excellent counsel from a dear friend, I see how he stayed with his passion. He never gave up, he told stories until the very end, and there is no doubt that he passed his zeal, his hopes and dreams on to me.

If I have half his determination, drive, and half his desire to write well, I will have carried on his legacy. There have been a few times in my writing career that I wondered if it was worth it to keep going. When I think of how my dad persevered, I have to carry on.

If I have half his determination, drive, and half his desire to write well, I will have carried on his legacy

I was blessed to have the example of my dad. Someone who didn’t quit. Someone who never gave up.


Multi award winning writer, Patty Nicholas lives in the mountains of North Carolina. She is a busy event planner for the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove, and is a member of the Blue Ridge Writers Group.

She is a mother of two grown daughters and grandmother of three. She writes Bible studies and devotionals as well as contemporary romance.

Devotions are published in compilations by Lighthouse Bible Studies.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Overcoming TSTL by Amy R. Anguish

Amy R. Anguish
Have you received a great piece of advice during your writing journey? Author Amy Anquish shares a bit of wisdom she was given that has stuck with her since the beginning. ~ Dawn

Overcoming TSTL


Know what those letters stand for?

If you haven’t heard them before, you’re where I was about fifteen or so years ago. I was fresh out of college. My mentor, an author who had come and spoken to my Advanced Comp class, and then taken me under her wing after finding out I wanted to be an author, too, agreed to read my manuscript and give advice. On one of the first pages, she wrote those letters about my heroine. Out to the side, she explained them—“Too stupid to live.”

That was near the beginning of my writing journey, a path that started back in high school, but didn’t get serious until later in college. After taking a creative writing class at my university, I was sure I knew all I’d need to know about writing, could go throw some of my story ideas onto the page, and send it off for instant contracts. Of course, it didn’t quite work that way.

Not when my main character was too stupid to live. It was a tale about a woman who was an author and agreed to run off on a family vacation with this guy she’d just met who needed a girlfriend to keep his family off his back. Looking back, I agree with my mentor. In this day and age, that girl would be dead. I’m pleased to say I’ve learned a few things since then.

Now that I have two books published and several more in rough draft stages on my computer, I am better at creating characters who think a bit more before they agree to run off on trips. I don’t put them into situations where they might die more often than not—at least not if I can help it. I write romance, after all. And I definitely know enough to realize that 30,000 words is not enough for a novel.

Someday, I’m going to go back and rewrite that story. I’ll have the heroine know the guy she agrees to travel with, so that she won’t be simply ignoring stranger danger. And I’ll fine-tune a few other quirks that were pointed out by my mentor. But right now, that story stays as it is to remind me.

On the days when I get discouraged, feel like I’ll never get as many reviews as I’m hoping for, never be able to publish more than one story every other year, or never have more than a couple hundred followers, I look back at how far I’ve come.

It took six years for my first novel to go from NANOWRIMO to published novel, but it did. It took almost that long for my second. I started this journey with just a handful of followers on Facebook, just a few reviews on Amazon. But you know what? I have more now. And they’re all good. And they’re not all from friends and family.

So, whenever you run across a friend’s comment, pointing out something stupid you’ve done in your manuscript, take the advice as it’s meant. Grow from it and move on. Someday, you’ll look back on it and see how far you’ve come. And then you can appreciate it even more.

Someday, you’ll look back on your writing journey and see how far you’ve come. #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters

Faith and Hope
Faith and Hope

Two sisters. One summer. Multiple problems.

Younger sister Hope has lost her job, her car, and her boyfriend all in one day. Her well-laid plans for life have gone sideways, as has her hope in God.

Older sister Faith is finally getting her dream-come-true after years of struggles and prayers. But when her mom talks her into letting Hope move in for the summer, will the stress turn her dream into a nightmare? Is her faith in God strong enough to handle everything?

For two sisters who haven't gotten along in years, this summer together could be a disaster ... or it could lead them to a closer relationship with each other and God.

Amy R Anguish grew up a preacher's kid, and in spite of having lived in seven different states that are all south of the Mason Dixon line, she is not a football fan. Currently, she resides in Tennessee with her husband, daughter, and son, and usually a bossy cat or two. Amy has an English degree from Freed-Hardeman University that she intends to use to glorify God, and she wants her stories to show that while Christians face real struggles, it can still work out for good.

Follow her at or

Thursday, July 11, 2019

A Time to be Tough By Patti Jo Moore

If someone used only one word to describe you, what do you think that word might be? Talented? Funny? Kind? Outgoing?

I can guarantee that one word that would not be used to describe me is TOUGH. 😉

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I was a kindergarten teacher in my other life (before writing full-time) and I absolutely loved working with young children. I especially loved working with them when they were nice to each other, and I didn’t need to intervene with little talks about the importance of playing nicely, sharing, and treating others the way we want to be treated.

Maybe that mindset of “wanting everyone to get along” is why I struggle with adding conflict in my stories. Yes, I know that without conflict and strife in our characters’ lives, there’s not really a story (or one that others want to read!). And even though I’ve been writing a while, I still find it difficult to - - as one of my author friends phrased it - - “be mean to my characters.” That goes against my kindergarten-teacher nature! I don’t want to be mean, even if those characters aren’t real people (although we writers know they seem very, very real to us).

Yet, since I enjoy writing stories, and want my stories to be entertaining and have a meaningful message, I must have conflict, and in my stories the conflict must be resolved by (or before) the happy ending.

So - - being a seat-of-the-pants writer, I make myself pause at certain places in my writing, and check to see if I’m being “tough” and adding conflict that will make my story stronger. If I’m not, then I take a break, pray some more about my writing, and then later return to my project with a renewed spirit - - determined to be as tough as necessary. Yes, it’s an ongoing struggle, but one I’m working on. 😊

What about you? Do you struggle with having enough conflict in your stories?

In Tune With Romance 

Amazon Buy Link
Meg Mills is thankful she relocated to Coastal Breeze after becoming widowed two years earlier. As she makes plans to achieve her dream of owning a small bookstore, she begins doubting herself after being harassed by her late husband’s stepmother. She’s also confused at her strong attraction to the shy, lanky piano tuner who arrives for an appointment one day.

Todd Davis is grateful for his aunt’s encouragement to move to Coastal Breeze after a painful divorce, and is soon captivated by an outgoing piano tuning client. But he’s an introvert, and feels certain the pretty widow wouldn’t be interested in him.

When Todd is hired as the local church’s choir director, he hopes this will help him get to know the attractive widow better—if he can come out of his shell. When the cousin who bullied Todd as a youth unexpectedly arrives in Coastal Breeze, Todd must confront his greatest fear, while getting past the pain of his memories. Meg worries that her exuberant personality has driven Todd away—until she learns the truth about his past.

Can two people who are polar opposites help each other & find romance in the process?

Patti Jo Moore is a retired kindergarten teacher and lifelong Georgia girl. She loves Jesus, her family, cats, and coffee, and is blessed to be published with Forget-Me-Not Romances. When she’s not spending time with her family (including her sweet grandbaby) or writing her “Sweet, Southern Stories” Patti Jo can be found feeding cats—her own six and local strays.

She loves connecting with readers and other writers, and can be found on Facebook at Author Patti Jo Moore or her personal blog at

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

When Grumpiness Strikes by Janet W. Ferguson

Back when I was in my thirties and forties, I could read books—long books (fiction or nonfiction) — really quickly. I felt sure I amazed friends with my speedreading prowess, ha!

I was a high school librarian in my late forties when I started writing fiction. Four novels spilled out easily those first years. Now in my mid-fifties with grown kids, I thought I’d really churn out some words every day. But life is still busy, just in different ways.

And I’m slower. Maybe it’s my thyroid condition (I blame everything on that now, LOL), but I don’t read as fast, and I don’t write as fast. I don’t multitask as well, plus now I have to think of new ways to describe a visceral reaction or internal voice in my characters that I haven’t used in a prior novel. I have to be even more creative and dig deeper to find something fresh, because I’ve already used a certain plot device or medical condition or social issue.

Wow, that’s hard work! Not to mention all the marketing authors have to do! I thought writing was going to be sort-of fun work.

But I started getting grumpy.

I realized, at some point, I was becoming annoyed with people who interrupted me with a phone call or a question or an invitation to lunch—like family, friends, maybe even… God?

It was time to readjust my attitude. I had to remember why I was writing in the first place. I’d started this whole writing gig to honor the Lord and to encourage readers and to share the gospel. I had to stop acting as if God was stressing because I hadn’t gotten enough done. Because the truth, of course, is I need Him, and I need to be with Him to let Him teach me, not just plow through without Him so I can keep up with the other authors I know.

My latest novel, The Art of Rivers, took me two years to finish, but I believe it’s some of my best work. I had to learn a lot about the different sides of addiction through interviews and prayers and research and life. This story stretched me spiritually, and I feel good about the results.
Whether you’re like a Speedy Gonzales or Pokey Little Puppy, just be sure you’re still writing with the Lord. So you won’t be a grumpy Christian author like I was.


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 cat that allows them to share the space.

Rivers Sullivan bears both visible and invisible scars—those on her shoulder from a bullet wound and those on her heart from the loss of her fiancé during the same brutal attack. Not even her background as an art therapist can help her regain her faith in humanity. Still, she scrapes together the courage to travel to St. Simons Island to see the beach cottage and art gallery she’s inherited from her fiancé. When she stumbles upon recovering addicts running her gallery, she’s forced to reckon with her own healing.

After the tragic drowning of his cousin, James Cooper Knight spends his days trying to make up for his past mistakes. He not only dedicates his life to addiction counseling, but guilt drives him to the water, searching for others who’ve been caught unaware of the quickly rising tides of St. Simons. When he rescues a peculiar blond woman and her sketch pad from a sandbar, then delivers this same woman to his deceased grandmother’s properties, he knows things are about to get even more complicated.

Tragic circumstances draw Cooper and Rivers closer, but they fight their growing feelings. Though Cooper’s been sober for years, Rivers can’t imagine trusting her heart to someone in recovery, and he knows a relationship with her will only rip his family further apart. Distrust and guilt are only the first roadblocks they must overcome if they take a chance on love.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

How to Write a Novel: The (Not-So) Definitive Guide By Marie Wells Coutu

Since I became serious about writing fiction, I’ve studied various methods for creating a novel.

The first challenge was figuring out if I was a “plotter” or a “pantser.” Since I grew up making outlines before writing term papers, I quickly realized I am most comfortable having an outline (i.e. plot) before starting to write a novel. Without a roadmap to my destination, I wind up having to rewrite large portions of the book.

So I began looking for guidance on how to develop my plot. And I found lots of wonderful options:

• The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall
• Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method
• The Story Equation and My Book Therapy, Susan May Warren’s coaching community for writers
• Stan Williams’ workshop on The Moral Premise
• Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
• The Hero’s Journey, based on the work of Joseph Campbell
• Angela Hunt’s Plot Skeleton
• Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell

Each of these books, workshops, and methods contributed to my understanding of how to develop a solid and engaging plot. I continue to seek out every piece of writing advice I can find, devouring each issue of Writer’s Digest, attending one or more writing conferences every year, and listening to webinars and podcasts. I have a backlog of saved video lessons that I may never finish in my lifetime.

From each one, I glean something new about creating plots, deepening characters, or engaging readers. All these various sources blend together when I sit down to write. I use the basic plot structure from one and mix in ideas from others to create my own method and my own unique stories.

You were expecting the final one-size-fits-all recipe for writing a novel? Sorry, there’s no such thing.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying disregard all this advice that’s available. It’s valuable, and to be a professional author, it’s necessary to learn the craft. Read, study, take courses, attend workshops, try out different methods. But don’t get discouraged if the plot “formula” that works for your critique partner or writing buddy doesn’t work for you. Adapt bits and pieces of what you learn and put them together to develop your own method.

Ultimately, following the method that works best for you is what will make your novel uniquely yours.

You were expecting the final one-size-fits-all recipe for writing a novel? Sorry, there’s no such thing @MWCoutu @MaryAFelkins #amwriting #SeriouslyWrite

Marie Wells Coutu finds beauty in surprising places, like old houses, gnarly trees, and forgotten treasures. When she’s not writing about finding restoration and healing through God-designed journeys, she enjoys taking broken things and making them useful.

The Secret Heart, her newest release, 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.

She grew up in Kentucky, has lived in Kansas, Connecticut, Minnesota, Iowa and South Carolina. With her handyman husband of four decades, she now divides her time between Florida and the Midwest.
You can find more about Marie and her novels on her Facebook author page, her website, or follow her on Twitter or on

Monday, July 8, 2019

Teamwork and the Writer by Peter Leavell

We like to think writing is a solitary, confined activity. However, with a toddler on one arm, someone talking in another ear, and a Cheshire cat on the keyboard tapping 45,835 pages of the letter ‘M,’ writing is hectic.

And then the teamwork begins.

Growing up, I was a runner. I loved the solitude of jogging South Dakota’s endless country roads, sometimes 10 or 15 miles. A skinny kid with speed, I did okay zooming past strong farmer boys in cross country and track.

My college life began in Iowa. If someone wants to jog in Iowa winters, they lengthen shoes so long they called it cross-country skiing. Meh. So, I was surprised to land on an intermural basketball team. Yay.

I was faster than everyone else. Every play, I dribbled past the first dude, weaved through the next two, spun around the tall defender, leapt high for a layup, and missed.

The coach, Donahue (name changed to protect Larry), was verbose and gentle. “Idiot. Don’t shoot,” he kindly explained. “Pass. Or I’ll stuff you in a snowbank.” He removed his fingers from around my neck.

I dribbled the ball past people, then threw it to someone else with the same shirt color who, while slower, knew how to get the round, bouncy thing through iron hoop that held a useless net thing. Yay. Points.

The Writer’s Life

When I received my first edits and rejections, many were as kind as Larry, and I felt some resentment. But I recalled lessons from Larry, er, Donahue. There are holes in my game. Like shooting. And as much as I think I’m the next Shakespeare, they helped me see problems in my writing. Like someone cried in every scene. Or people were forever brushing up against something. Or that I numbered the chapters all wrong.

I relied on feedback from contests. And then colleagues. Editors. Agents. And then finally teamed up with a traditional publisher who, I discovered, like team players. So, I was a team player. And still am. We can win if we work together.

Listen to those in the industry. They want to win as much as you. And I want you to win, too. Build and rely on a team, and you’ll find your work stronger than ever before.

Writing is teamwork. Anyone else who says differently is still trying to get published. #writerslife #seriouslywrite @peterleavell

How do I strengthen my writing? Create a team! Read more at— #writerslife #seriouslywrite @peterleavell

Teamwork and the Writer. Listen to those in the Industry. They want to win as much as you do. #writerslife #seriouslywrite @peterleavell

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, July 5, 2019

We Write in a Different Time by Melinda V. Inman

Meme - When we write for others, we participate in God's restorative work

We Write in a Different Time

My father’s life experiences would send most of us to therapy. No such services were available then in rural Kansas, and if they were, stigma was attached. People born in 1935 pressed on, stoic as they internalized their grief and pain, all while doing their duty, serving their country, raising their families, and performing their jobs with excellence. It was a hardscrabble life.

Meanwhile, deep wounds festered for decades, his trauma shaping my fears. When he entered his eighties, all of a sudden, he began speaking about experiences he’d never discussed openly in the past. One by one, the Lord resurfaced the life-altering events that had shaped his life.

First, he talked his way through his naval service. We honored him for his valor during long swims through shark-infested waters, enemy fire in turbulent oceans, hearing loss from his role as gunner’s mate, and swabbing decks covered in radioactive fallout after watching nuclear bombs tested in the Pacific. He spent much time in this place of reminiscence.

Then, seeming to have come to peace with his military experiences, he shut that door, moving on to consider the tragic death of his brother, which he had witnessed as a thirteen-year-old. My sister and I sat breathless, barely moving, as he described in detail the car accident that changed his life. We’d never before heard these facts. Gently, the Lord enabled him to come to peace, to see that as the little brother in the backseat, he was not to blame. More healing.

There were other harms. One by one, the Lord surfaced these. This inner work allowed my father to be at peace at last, more at rest in the Lord than I’ve ever before seen him. Now his prayers are spontaneous and sweet, his love more tender.

Watching the Lord gently guide this process of personal growth, bringing wounds to the surface, and then applying the balm of comfort and grace has been a great encouragement. My mother says we’re watching God prepare my father for heaven. I’m deeply reassured and comforted by the love God has shown by patiently and lovingly bringing healing into his life.

Though we live and write in a different time than my father experienced as a young man, the Lord’s help has existed for generations, and it continues. He works in the lives of each generation according to our needs, our cognition, and our current technology, or lack thereof.

Nowadays, we sift and sort through our traumas more readily, resurfacing them and getting professional help if necessary. We’ve realized that talking through issues with encouragement from God’s Word can help greatly. We more readily seek input from our pastors and friends as we wrestle with the Lord during hardships. We reach out for community support when needed. We discuss topics that were avoided in previous generations.

We can now research online. We need not bear these experiences in silence for an entire lifetime. Anyone can find Bible study help, assistance with original languages, and guidance for practically any situation, because of the ready tools at our fingertips. We are a new generation in a new era, with more access to the written word than ever before, now available on our gadgets, computers, and phones.

At this unique time, the Lord has gifted us to be writers. Us! What a privilege!

As Christian writers, God can use our words to give encouragement to the suffering, providing a source of help to turn them toward God’s Word. Given the pain my father experienced and that we, his family, suffered as he struggled for decades, I feel particularly blessed to be used by the Lord right now as a writer of encouragement.

Writers, our mission is from God, for this time and in this season. When we pray, seek God’s wisdom and inspiration, and write to uplift others, we participate in God’s restorative work. The words he gives can transform lives, apply salve to heartache, and begin the healing of families.

This work is holy. Lean into your holy calling. The Lord uses your gifting for good.

When we pray, seek God’s wisdom and inspiration, and write to uplift others, we participate in God’s restorative work. This work is holy. #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @MelindaVInman

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


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Thursday, July 4, 2019

Let Freedom Ring! By Terri Weldon

Happy 243rd birthday to the United States of America! Needless to say, we love the 4th of July in America and we spend our day celebrating our freedom with family and friends. Some people cookout and invite the entire family over while others go to parades or parks and watch fireworks light up the nighttime sky. There are as many ways to celebrate our freedom as there are Americans.

Kind of reminds me of writing. There are as many ways to tell a story as there are authors. If I told you to write a short story that had a man, a woman, a broken down car, and a farm house I’d get a different story from each of you. Undoubtedly there would be a romance where the man’s car broke down right in front of the widow’s farmhouse and he stays on to help her out while saving money to have his car fixed. If I were writing the story the woman would be on the run from a stalker. Her car breaks down and he murders her in the farm house. A very famous duo in the speculative market wrote a great book about a house and believe me – I could have never imagined that story.

Exercise your creative freedom by telling me what story you would write. Then go out and celebrate Independence Day!

A Match Made in Sheffield
 by Terri Weldon

Natalie Benton bounced from one foster home to another until she landed on Ellie Alexander’s doorstep. Natalie’s vagabond childhood caused her to yearn for a secure life, which led to Natalie’s five-year plan: complete her law degree, marry the perfect man, become a partner at Montgomery, Haynes, and Preston, and produce one child. Getting arrested wasn’t in Natalie’s plan. Needing a public defender wasn’t in her plan. Falling for Grady Hunter, her public defender, definitely wasn’t in her plan. Can Grady convince Natalie there is more to life than her five-year plan? Is Ellie the only one who sees a future for Natalie and Grady?

Buy Link: Amazon

Terri Weldon feels blessed to be a full time writer. She enjoys traveling, gardening, reading, and shopping for shoes. One of her favorite pastimes is volunteering as the librarian at her church. It allows her to shop for books and spend someone else’s money! Plus, she has the great joy of introducing people to Christian fiction. She lives with her family in the Heartland of the United States. Terri has two adorable Westies – Crosby and Nolly Grace. Terri is a member of ACFW and RWA.

Readers can connect with Terri on her Website

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Writers write – right? by Cindy Regnier

Well, yes, and maybe I’m going way out on the pen nub, but I’m going to say writers do something else that may be just as important as their writing. Writers encourage writers.

Writers encourage other writers, which in turn encourages those writers to encourage even more writers. Where would we be if we were in this all by ourselves? I’d venture to say not many of us would be anywhere close to where we are now. As for me, I’d rather have my writing sisters standing by ready to encourage, prod and kick me in the backside if the need arises, than to be standing all alone on top of a successful career with no one to pat my back or keep me grounded.

We all need each other. Everything is figure-out-able on this writing journey, but we can’t do it alone. Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will, so we all need that encouragement from our friends to get us over the humps and through the valleys.

I don’t hear a lot of disagreement going on over what I’ve just said, so let’s take it a step further and look at the other side of the page. How much encouragement do you give to others? Friends, encouragement breeds encouragement in the encourager. That’s a bit of a tongue-twister, but true nevertheless. Perhaps you have been assigned a mountain to show others it can be moved. Maybe you needed a heroine so that’s what you became.

Next time you meet up with a bout of that pesky writer’s block, just look for a way to lift someone else up. You’ll find that it’s usually enough to lift yourself too. Amazing how that works. Find your tribe and love them hard. Got a critique partner? Be an encourager in the process. Tell the negative committee meeting inside your writer friend’s head to sit down and be quiet.

I don’t say this often enough, but I am so thankful to each and every person who has encouraged me along the way of my writing journey. Believe me, I know how easy it is to get discouraged, but I also know there are many standing beside me and cheering me onward. They make all the difference. A special thanks to PAWS – you know who you are. None of us would be where we are without each other.

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Writer community, let’s drown out the silence. Share some ways others have encouraged you or you encourage others, then let’s get out there and encourage!

Writers do something else that may be just as important as their writing. Writers encourage writers. via @cindysregnier #SeriouslyWrite #amwriting #encouragement


Scribbling in notebooks has been a habit of Cindy Regnier since she was old enough to hold a pencil. Born and raised in Kansas, she writes stories of historical Kansas, especially the Flint Hills area where she spent much of her childhood. Cindy is married to her husband of 36 years, has two grown sons, a son residing in heaven, a beautiful daughter-in-law, and a beautiful daughter-in-law-to-be.

A graduate of Kansas State University with a dual major in Agriculture and Business, Cindy works for her local school district as clerk of the board of education and is active in her church and community. Her experiences with the Flint Hills setting, her natural love for history, farming and animals, along with her interest in genealogical research give her the background and passion to write heart-fluttering historical romance.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

8 Tips for Handling the Hard Critique by Emily Conrad

two people with laptops and pens

The email appears. If the subject line wasn’t enough of a giveaway, the attachment icon signals your adrenaline to pump. You hesitate to click “open” as your brain reasons through fight or flight possibilities. Finally, you opt for fight. You’re going to face this.

You sit stock still, only moving your finger to scroll and your eyes to read the critique of your manuscript.

Depending on the comments and suggestions, you might lean closer to the screen, encouraged and inspired.

Other times, tension builds in your shoulders, and a swell of anger, offense, and discouragement threatens to engulf you and every writing dream you’ve ever had.

person writing

I look for critique partner relationships marked by mutual respect and an enjoyment of each other’s manuscripts. That respect and enjoyment go a long way toward a positive critique experience, even when my critique partner suggests extensive rewrites.

Still, even a good critique partner can have a bad day. Writers, especially those who enter contests, also get feedback from people they don't know at all who might not have a compatible style. Also, as much as it pains me to type this, sometimes, the only reason a critique is hard to swallow is a writer's pride.

Whatever the reason for a negative reaction to a critique, when we're discouraged and hurting, extreme reactions beg to be put into action. Delete the whole critique! Delete the manuscript! Quit writing! Or keep writing... but never share it again! Implement every single suggestion!

I know how tempting these thoughts can be--especially that one about quitting.

So how do we distinguish the next best step through the pain? How do we get back into writing after a critique leaves us raw and ready to quit?

1. Pray. The Bible tells us to cast all our cares on God. The pain and offense that comes with hard-to-swallow critiques makes it hard for me to do this well sometimes, but as someone who writes for God’s glory, I have to trust that he hears, understands, and will help me through, even when I’m not at my best. The important thing is to keep coming to him.

2. Outlaw rash decisions. Today is not the day to quit writing or forever delete that manuscript. And though continuing education has its place, today is probably not the day to plunk down $1000 on that writing course.

3. Enlist others for perspective. Look for writers who love you and enjoy your work enough to want to see the story be the best it can be. These people can better see if the feedback has merit, but they’ll talk you through it in a way that starts to rebuild confidence and inspiration. They’ll also help you safely determine which feedback isn’t in the best interest of the story.

two laptops facing each other

4. Give grace. I’ve said things in critiques I now regret. That’s humbling, and even more so because I can’t always go back to the person later and adjust what I said. So as you seek perspective, exercise grace. Grace toward the other person by keeping their name to yourself even as you run the ideas by a select group of friends, and grace toward yourself by remembering that the feedback doesn’t define you or your writing talent. No one wants to derail another writer—and if they do want to, they don’t deserve that power.

5. Take time. Let your emotions heal and cool to more calmly discern which feedback to apply and which to let go. And as you wait, remind yourself that you do get to let go of any feedback that isn't right for the story.

6. Sift out personal opinions. Writing is a subjective business, so even when a critique partner or judge tries to be objective, opinions are going to seep in—and differ. However, if several people seem to be of the same opinion—and especially if they’re industry professionals or part of a book’s target audience—it might be time to consider if the change will improve the readers’ experience with the story. 

7. Read between the lines. Offering feedback is hard work, and sometimes, it’s so hard that a critique might identify the problem one way when really, something else is causing the issue. For example, a comment may say, “I feel removed from the action here. Can you describe more?” Flabbergasted, you reread the paragraph of description and wonder what else you could add. After some reflection, however, you might realize readers feel removed from the action because you need to change the point of view character for the scene to one who's more immediately involved. This is tricky, because the critique might not say why the person is asking for change. They may simply say, "Can you add description?" This is when having other opinions can help. If several people are asking for changes to a scene, it's a signal that something is off. It's up to the writer to sleuth out what that something is.

8. Retain ownership. The story is still yours. If it’s published someday, your name will be on the cover. Seriously consider feedback, but don’t implement changes that don’t resonate with you and the story you’ve been called to write.


8 Tips for Handling the Hard Critique by @emilyrconrad on #seriouslywrite #amwriting #writetip

How do we get back into #writing after a #critique leaves us raw and ready to quit? Some ideas from @emilyrconrad on #seriouslywrite

Respect and enjoyment goes a long way toward a positive critique experience, even when a critique partner suggests extensive rewrites. But what do we do when the experience isn't so positive? @emilyrconrad on #seriouslywrite #amediting

Photo credits
Person writing and two people with laptops and pencils photos by Helloquence on Unsplash
Two laptops facing each other photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash
Graphics created on

Emily Conrad headshotEmily Conrad writes Christian romance and a blog to encourage women of faith. Her debut novel, Justice, released from Pelican Book Group in 2018. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two rescue dogs. She loves Jesus and enjoys road trips to the mountains, crafting stories, and drinking coffee. (It’s no coincidence Justice is set mostly in a coffee shop!) She offers free short stories on her website and loves to connect with readers on social media.

Jake thought he was meant to marry Brooklyn, but now she's pregnant, and he had nothing to do with it. Brooklyn can’t bring herself to name the father as she wrestles with questions about what her pregnancy means and how it will affect her relationship with Jake. If Harold Keen, the man who owns the bookstore across from Jake's coffee shop, has anything to do with it, the baby will ruin them both. Can Jake and Brooklyn overcome the obstacles thrown in their path, and finally find the truth in God's love and in each other?

Barnes and Noble


Monday, July 1, 2019

The Closing of the Circle by Sara Davison

Sara Davison

How do we know when our writing has gone full circle? My guest today, fellow Mountain Brook Ink author Sara Davison, is here to share her wisdom and an aha moment that resonated with me. Enjoy! ~ Annette


As I have always been deeply uninterested in being in the spotlight, I have often wondered why I have such a deep, driving need for the words I’ve written to actually be read by someone. At least, I have wondered about this driving need until recently, when I came across a quote in a book. The words hit me so profoundly that I literally had to set the book down and contemplate them for several minutes, letting the truth of them sink in.

The quote was by Max McLean, founder of the Fellowship for the Performing Arts, who said, “…I am amazed at the communicators who have never quite understood that a story is not a story until it has been received.”

Wham! The revelation struck me like an apple falling from a tree and bouncing off my head:

The stories I write are incomplete until someone reads them. It is in the reading that the connection is made, the process is completed, the circle is closed.

It’s the whole tree falling in the forest thing: If a writer pens a story and no one is around to hear (or read) it, does it make an impact? Of course not. And making an impact, connecting with a reader on some level, “stirring the blood” as McLean describes it, is the entire point of the story-telling process.

Which is why I long to have my words read: to establish that connection with another human being, to in some way touch them with the truth of God’s goodness, faithfulness, and love.

Whether the feedback is positive (which I love and appreciate), or negative (which I see the value of, especially if it is kindly done or at least kindly meant), receiving it affirms that my words have been read, the blood has (hopefully) been stirred, even if just a little, and an impact, however tiny, has been made.

The story has just become a story.

When does a story become a story? @SaraJDavison

The Closing of the Circle by @SaraJDavison


Vigilant by Sara Davison

She must choose between the man who represents the law and the one who may have taken it into his own hands.

Neglected by her parents for most of her life, Nicole Hunter keeps everyone, especially men, at arms’ length. So when Attorney Gage Kelly walks into the diner where she is waiting tables one evening, she fights her attraction to him with everything she has.

Gage and his brother Holden grew up in an abusive home, and Gage has baggage of his own. But the connection between him and Nicole is too strong to ignore, and Gage manages to convince them both that their relationship is worth the risk.

Then children begin disappearing in the night.

When Detective Daniel Grey starts to close in on the child snatcher, and enlists Nicole’s help, she faces her deepest fear. Everything and everyone she has clung to so tightly could be ripped from her, leaving her completely alone.

Except for one.


Sara Davison is the author of the romantic suspense novel, The Watcher, and the romantic suspense series, The Seven Trilogy. She has been a finalist for eight national writing awards, including Best New Canadian Christian author, a Carol Award, and two Daphne du Maurier Awards for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. She is a Word and Cascade Award winner. She currently resides in Ontario, Canada with her husband Michael and their three children, all of whom she (literally) looks up to. Get to know Sara better through her blog:; on Twitter: @sarajdavison; or on Facebook: @authorsaradavison.