Thursday, January 31, 2019

Less Is the New More by Stephanie Dees

I don’t know about you, but since the first of the year, I’ve been inundated with information about decluttering. Everyone in my facebook friends list seems to be talking about it. Netflix made a show about it. Even retailers are getting in on the action by sending emails and flyers about upgrading my storage. I had no idea my laundry basket needed a makeover!

I guess we’re all tempted to look at a new year as a fresh start. A new beginning. A new “us.” A slimmer, more organized and decluttered “us.” And that’s all well and good. It’s great to use the fresh clean pages of a brand new calendar to inspire us to do more and better things, but sometimes we get so caught up in the desire for a new us, we forget to appreciate who we already are. So, I have a few suggestions--four things we might want to consider decluttering this year. 

The first thing we need to kick to the curb is doubt. It’s normal to feel some trepidation when we send our work into the world, but doubt keeps us stuck where we are. If we’ve had rejection, doubt can make us wonder why we’re even bothering. It tells us us we can’t reach that goal we want to reach. But it’s important to realize that doubt is a liar, or as William Shakespeare said, a traitor, which makes “us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” So this year, let’s make it our goal to declutter doubt, and remember every step is a step in the right direction because we learn from all of them, even the ones which seemingly move us backward.

The next item for the discard pile is procrastination. Most writers deal with procrastination in some form or another. My theory is we’re afraid that today--whatever day today is--is the day when we’re going to finally run out of words to write. It’s a lot easier to watch videos on youTube about how to create a smokey eye (No? Just me?) than it is to stare at a blank page with a flashing cursor. Don’t get me wrong--it’s fun to watch videos and play on social media, but if we’re procrastinating to keep from feeling insecure about what we’re actually supposed to be working on, it’s time for them to go. And now that I think about it, getting rid of procrastination will be a lot easier now that we’ve decluttered doubt from our lives!

The third thing we need to declutter this year is fear. Now fear isn’t always a bad thing. It’s the thing that keeps us from walking off a ledge or committed to wearing our seatbelts. The danger with fear is we can become so risk-averse that we stop taking chances and let fear become the boss. 

When I was a little girl, my grandmother owned a restaurant. I remember her telling me one time that the way to carry a full cup of coffee without spilling it is not to focus on the coffee (and the fear of it sloshing over the side of the cup) but to look ahead to the table. As writers, we know our best, most exhilarating work happens when we stop playing it safe. Listening to the voice of fear holds us back, but not in a good way, and the way to get rid of it is to keep our eyes focused on the destination ahead.

Finally, this year, we need to let go of comparison. It’s so incredibly tempting to look around us at others on a similar path and find ourselves lacking. He got a contract. She got an agent. Her book got more reviews. His won more awards. We see all the amazing things people around us are accomplishing, but what we don’t see is the painful parts of other people’s lives--their doubts and fears and insecurities, the hours they spent procrastinating. We try to measure our struggle to their successes and that’s a sure way to feel like a failure, even if it’s the farthest thing from the truth.

So how do we ditch comparison once and for all? Remember that our path is our own and just because it’s different doesn’t mean we’re doing it wrong. Everyone struggles. Behind the highlight reel we see on social media of authors we admire is a messy life just like ours.

Okay. Now that we’ve decluttered some of the things that could hold us back in 2019, we’ve got some open space to work with and there’s one big question remaining. Now that the doubt and fear and insecurities are gone, how do we fill that space?

Well, with certainty.

The certainty that we are each a child of God. As we use the creativity He gave us, there’s no need to look left or right, no need to ever entertain doubt and fear again. 

We are fully known and fully loved by Him. 

And no external success can even come close to that.

So how about you? Have you been inundated with decluttering messages? Done some literal or figurative decluttering this year? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

The Marriage Bargain

Jules Sheehan will do anything to keep custody of the two orphaned girls in her care-including a marriage of convenience with their uncle. Cam Quinn crosses the globe as a travel writer, but he's ready to settle down. Now tough, tender Jules is offering the home he's secretly longed for. Can this marriage in name only become a family of the heart?

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Award-winning author Stephanie Dees lives in small-town Alabama with her family, two spoiled dogs, and a very bossy cat. A Southern girl through and through, she loves sweet tea, SEC football, corn on the cob and air conditioning. Her latest book, The Marriage Bargain, is available now.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

10 Strategies to Get Back in the Writing Game by Heidi McCahan

My family and I stayed up way too late recently, yelling at strangers on television playing a riveting game of professional football. I’m embarrassed to admit I went to bed mad because the team I wanted to win lost in overtime. I just couldn’t accept reality. As it turns out, a lot of people agreed with me and took to social media to vent, signing petitions and vowing not to watch football anymore.

Yet the outcome is still the same. The teams who won are still going to February’s highly anticipated professional football game. While some might say questionable calls by the officials influenced the outcome, others will argue the two teams still standing earned the opportunity through superb coaching and brilliant athleticism. Regardless of what happened, every player and coach who didn’t win has a choice to make: they can be bitter, make excuses, argue with their friends (and strangers on the internet), or they can step back, re-evaluate and commit to doing the hard work required to prepare for next season.

Much like professional sports, the writing life is a rollercoaster of successes and perceived disappointments. Sometimes what we thought might work in our favor doesn’t. Other people are claiming victory with signed contracts and revealing gorgeous new book covers, while we’re still on the sidelines toiling over our manuscripts.

To quote George Eliot, one of my favorite novelists, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” As February approaches, resolutions are fading, if not completely discarded. Maybe you’re questioning whether or not you even want to keep writing.

Perhaps the agony of past defeats and the achievements of others hurts more than you’d care to admit.

Take heart, my word-wrangling friends. You are not alone. It’s time for an honest look at your circumstances. Do you have measurable action steps mapped out for how you will achieve your goals in 2019? Much like the professional athletes coping with a painful loss and the disappointment that comes with no championship ring, writers often wrestle with feeling uncertain or even discouraged by their manuscript’s current status.

Today’s a new day. Here are 10 strategies for improving your craft, connecting with others and consistently putting more words on the page.

  • Join a writing group (online or in real life)
  • Commit to writing a manageable number of words every day and track your progress 
  • Finish that manuscript
  • Start a new manuscript
  • Plan and save to attend a conference or a writer’s retreat
  • Enter a contest
  • Join a book launch team for a published author in your genre 
  • Create in a different format (write on paper with a pen, try dictating into an app on your phone, visit a new coffee shop and write for an hour)
  • Write a short story
  • Find out where your target readers hang out on social media and start engaging 

Your turn: leave a comment and share one strategy you’re implementing in your writing life this year.


Heidi secretly dreamed of writing a book for most of her childhood, but a particularly painful rejection letter in middle school convinced her to tuck that dream away. Instead, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Sports Medicine from Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington and a Master’s Degree in Athletic Training from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. After a brief career as a Certified Athletic Trainer, Heidi married her husband Steve. They live in North Carolina with their three active boys and one amazing Goldendoodle. Heidi dusted off her big dream of becoming a published author and launched her first contemporary romance into the world in 2014. She is a huge fan of coffee, dark chocolate, and happily ever after. Look for her next novel Their Baby Blessing releasing June 2019 from Harlequin Love Inspired.

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Their Baby Blessing back cover copy (releases June 1, 2019):

The navy prepared him for anything … except an instant family

When navy veteran Gage Westbrook promised to look out for his late best friend’s son, he never imagined he’d bond with the baby boy. And he definitely didn’t plan to fall for Connor’s gorgeous temporary guardian, Skye Tomlinson. But weighted by guilt for the accident that took Connor’s dad, can Gage find the courage to forgive himself and embrace the chance at a family?

Their Baby Blessing Pre-order Links:


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Multiplied Rewards

It's my pleasure to introduce Shannon Redmon, a romantic suspense and inspirational author, who will be a regular contributor to Seriously Write each third Aspiring Author Tuesday. 
Her well-crafted stories have had me cheering for the hero and heroine, biting my nails in suspense to discover who the bad guy really is, all while being duly challenged in my faith. 
I know you'll be blessed by her posts each month. 
Multiplied Rewards
By Shannon Redmon
I remember when I first got serious about writing. My dreams were big and I thought my stories were publishing magic. Grandiose plans of being snatched up by a publisher filled my head. Shelves inside national bookstores would carry my fiction novels. Not just the obscure back shelves, but my name would be plastered right up front, inside the door. 
Then I went to my first writer’s conference and discovered my plans, my ideas, my goals and dreams fell far short of what it took to be published. 
Upon returning home, I wrote and re-wrote trying to follow all the rules I’d learned. Show don’t tell. Use deep POV, keep adverbs to a bare minimum, just to name a few. The list was overwhelming…panic inducing. How would I ever measure up?
In the midst of it all, God placed a question in my heart. “Are you writing because you want to be published or are you writing because you love the process?” 
The craft of creating stories and developing characters should engage our souls. To compose words into something beautiful inspires other’s lives and is a calling. Only God can magnify the words we place on paper. He gives our reader’s hope through the stories we write.  
Sometimes we make plans, especially when the new year rolls around. We have ideas in our heads and determine in our hearts what a successful writer looks like. But perhaps our vision is skewed by worldly notions. 
Often our plans can hinder us from discovering the true beauty of the lesson God wants to teach writers. Proverbs 16:9 reads:
The mind of man plans his way, 
but the Lord directs his steps. (NASB)
When we surrender our stories to Him, not only does He direct our steps, but He designs our stories and transforms hearts, we would never know how to reach otherwise. Nothing is hindered when God writes through us. 
Remember the small boy who gave the five loaves of bread and the two fish to Jesus? Before he met the Messiah, the boy planned to eat the lunch his mother had packed for him. Instead, he sacrificed his food to the One who blessed his offering. Five thousand men and their families were filled up that day with twelve baskets left over. One basket to represent each tribe of Israel. 
When we humble our hearts and let the Lord direct our writing steps, then thousands of people will be impacted for the glory of God.  
Be willing to give your plans, words, and stories to the only One who can multiply the eternal rewards. Then, we'll no longer hinder the true purpose of our bring God glory.
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 Redmon’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, January 28, 2019

Freshen Up by Mary Manners


Freshen Up

Mary Manners
It has always been my dream to live on a farm, and a year ago that dream came true. Well, sort of. My husband and I purchased acreage in our small town and it came with a house. I  often say I fell in love with the land, the garden shed, and the chicken coop...and the house was merely a bonus!
The house had issues. The flower beds were maze-like jungles that had grown up over the entrance, while a bird's nest sat in the porch light. A pagoda was leaning perilously and the garden pond had dried up. The shutters needed paint and the decks would have to be torn out and rebuilt from the bottom up.
But inside the house was warm and inviting, despite the fact that some areas needed a paint job and some serious TLC. We immediately realized the house had good bones...and would soon become our forever home.
A year later, the land has been tamed with beautiful flowers and box gardens that produce lovely vegetables nearly year-round. Our rescue dog and cats love to frolic in the yard with the chickens, and my husband and I often enjoy an evening out on the restored porch as we watch the sun set in a breathtaking display of tranquil beauty.


So, what does all this have to do with writing? Well, our stories are often like the house on my mini farm--they have good bones but need a little (or a lot) of TLC. Look for the beauty that lies within the pages of that unfinished manuscript, and don't be afraid to renovate in order to make that beauty shine. With a bit of pruning, your story just might call someone home. 


Megann Reilly returns home to Wildwood, Tennessee to help nurse her estranged mother back to health. She's grateful for her newfound job as an administrative assistant at Wildwood Community Church…until she runs into Colton Kendrick, the bad-boy-wannabe who broke her heart.

Colt's job as Youth Director at the church is a cavernous stretch from his high school days as the town's privileged rich kid. The death of his sister has left him with a young niece to raise and an unruly puppy to tame. He's not the self-centered person who once hurt Megann, and all he wants is a chance to prove to her the man he’s become—and to love her.
Is it true that time heals all wounds, or has Colt found Megann…only to lose her again?

Mary Manners is a country girl at heart who has spent a lifetime sharing her joy of writing. She lives in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee with her husband Tim and their rescue dog Axel, mischievous cats Colby and Rascal, 8 rambunctious chickens, and a dozen fish.
Mary writes stories full of faith and hope. Her books have earned multiple accolades including two Inspirational Reader’s Choice Awards, the Gail Wilson Award of Excellence, the Aspen Gold, the Heart of Excellence, and the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award.
Mary loves long sunrise runs, Smoky Mountain sunsets, and flavored coffee. She enjoys connecting with reader friends through her website:


Friday, January 25, 2019

May This Blog Haunt You Pleasantly (Part 1) by C. Kevin Thompson

C. Kevin Thompson
One of the things all authors do regularly is read about the craft. How to write, what to write, what makes exceptional writing, what doesn’t…all the nuances, opinions, debates, professional advice, and sometimes contradictory “rules” out there can make a writer’s head swim.

Especially if you’re a new author.

I am convinced, however, that if new writers wish to “get their minds right,” they should be reading about famous authors, for it may be just as important, if not more so, than reading what other authors have written—especially when seeking insight into “how” stories come to be.

I did just this very exercise over the holidays, reading Les Standiford’s The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits. There were a few things I pulled from the pages that have inspired me. In the next three months, I will bring three major “gleanings,” if you will, that arose from those pages and have relevance for us all.

Gleaning #1: Authors have always wished to get their works in as many readers’ hands as possible, sometimes at the chagrin of their publishers (if they are traditionally published) or themselves (if they are independently published). And if not handled properly, it can become an all-consuming fire.

Charles Dickens, when he wrote his famed “little book,” known as A Christmas Carol, he was deep in debt, as he was most of his life. Yet, he wished for the average person to be able to get their hands on the book. Publishing prices for such a book in 1843 would have easily set the cost as high as thirty-one schillings or as low as five schillings for a seasonably red, hardcover copy with engravings done up in color and the pages edged in gold. Five schillings was not an exorbitant amount of money for the wealthier of the middle class, but definitely more than a worker like Bob Cratchit—who had a wife and five children—could have afforded on fifteen schillings a week without giving it some great thought and budgetary planning. Dickens allowed the price to be set at five schillings a copy, knowing some would be given to libraries. He also knew five schillings was somewhat of a bargain price that could still allow him to work his way out of debt.

I liken this entire price setting episode to e-books today. Many a publisher would like to charge $7.99 and up, but we often see books offered at $3.99 and less (sometimes free!) to build an audience. Something Dickens was always striving to do. If he had one fault, it was his incessant desire to make money so he would never be in debt again. Hmm…have you ever wished that wish? It seemed to almost consume Dickens at times, making him happy when his works sold well—as in the case of Oliver Twist, for example. But when his books didn’t sell well and placed him at odds with his publisher, then the pleasant Dickens became a cash-strapped worrier.

Before all of the six thousand books of the first printing were sold by Christmas Day, 1843—after being released just a few weeks before—Dickens had written to a friend, explaining how he hoped for a thousand pounds in profit to help his financial situation. And when compared to the two hundred pounds he was earning a month at the time for installments of his novel, The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, a thousand pounds definitely would have been a sizeable help.

But to his horror, after receiving his royalty statement from the publisher, Chapman & Hall, he wrote to his friend and agent, John Forster, on Saturday morning, Feb. 10, 1844: “Such a night as I have passed, I really believed I should never get up again, until I passed through all the horrors of a fever.”

Forster thought Dickens had some ailment. However, like so many authors, his ailment wasn’t internal. It was caused by an external force—His Publisher’s Accounting Statement:

  • Started with 6,000 copies, minus approximately 103 gift, library, and press copies
  • 26 copies sold at “three schillings, six pence” as a promotional deal to booksellers
  • Printing: 74 pounds, 2 schillings
  • Paper: 89 pounds, 2 schillings
  • Drawing and Engravings: 49 pounds, 18 schillings
  • Two Steel Plates: 1 pound, 4 schillings
  • Printing Plates: 15 pounds, seventeen schillings
  • Paper for the Plates: 7 pounds, 12 schillings
  • Coloring: 120 pounds
  • Binding of the books: 180 pounds
  • Incidentals and Advertising: 168 pounds, 7 schillings, 8 pence
  • Commission to the Publisher (@ 15%): 148 pounds, 16 schillings
  • TOTAL EXPENSES: 855 pounds, 8 schillings
  • BALANCE OF ACCOUNT TO MR. DICKEN’S CREDIT: 137 pounds, 4 schillings, 4 pence

As Standiford notes, “Dickens was shattered and said as much to his agent: ‘I had set my heart and soul upon a Thousand, clear. What a wonderful thing it is, that such a great success should occasion me such intolerable anxiety and disappointment.’” 1

Few people know this, but Dickens almost quit in February of 1844. He was in debt when he began writing A Christmas Carol in October of 1843 (did you know he wrote it in six weeks and had it published before Christmas? So much for NaNoWriMo saving the financial day, eh?). 2 He had also dealt with his debtor father, which is another long story that caused Dickens to spend his early childhood in a “workhouse” while he helped get his father out of debtor’s prison.

To help with his situation, Dickens had purchased a thirteen-room house on Devonshire Terrace—just around the block, by the way, from a more famous address: 221-B Baker Street—to accommodate everyone, including his father and mother. This massive house and his growing family of soon-to-be five children caused finances to be tight, indeed. As a result, he felt he might have to turn his efforts to more economically successful endeavors and abandon writing altogether.

Ever been in Dickens’s shoes? Is the writing life just as “paycheck to paycheck” as the next job? Yep. Can be. For most authors, it is.

Ever been told “back in the day, publishers picked up all the advertising costs”? Now we know, that is a lie. Even with the great Charles Dickens, publishers deducted the costs of doing business from the sales. His own disappointing bottom line caused him to eventually sign a contract with a new publisher on June 1, 1844. He received an advance of 2,800 pounds to get him through a furlough from writing and a trip abroad to garner new ideas. This amount would be paid back during the life of the eight-year contract.

Ever had your heart set on a certain bottom line only to see a fraction of that amount fill out the little box on the royalty check? Did that make you want to quit? Chase more lucrative endeavors to pay the bills?

Dickens was only thirty-two years old in February of 1844. Even with great “hits” to his credit, like The Pickwick Papers, The Adventures of Oliver Twist, The Life and Adventures of Nicolas Nickleby, and The Old Curiosity Shop, one of history’s greatest writers was one step away from throwing away his pen and paper…for good.

Aren’t you glad Dickens chose to tough it out? Otherwise, works like these would not have been completed or written at all: Martin Chuzzlewit, The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, Dombey and Son, The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain, David Copperfield, Bleak House, Hard Times: For These Times, Little Dorrit, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Boots at the Holly Tree Inn, Reprinted Pieces, and The Mudfrog Papers.

As you can see, much of what Dickens endured in the mid-1800s wasn’t much different than today’s market. Publishers have bottom lines. Writers have hopes and dreams. And usually, a writer’s dreams and hopes are larger than the “Balance of the Account to Your Credit.”

The monetary cost of publication (and some would say the emotional cost as well) will always be a thorn in the writer’s side. Writers will always have a need (usually a financial one) to write more, especially if they are full-time authors. It has always been this way, apparently. And by the looks of it, always will.

So, are you in? For the long haul? Like Dickens? Regardless of the bottom lines?

I hope so.

Stay tuned for next month’s “Part 2,” where we will look at the publisher/author relationship through the lens of Charles Dickens.

1 Standiford, Les. The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits. Broadway Books; New York, NY, 2017. pp. 153-157.

2 Although, some would argue that Dickens wrote his best work in A Christmas Carol, so maybe there’s something to be said for writing fast after all. 😊

Book 2 of The Blake Meyer Thriller Series

A Looming Attack. A Loathsome Abduction. A Lethal Assassin.

Supervisory Special Agent Blake Meyer has an impossible choice to make. After thwarting a massive biological attack on the continental United States, the contagion is still missing and in the hands of the enemy. So is his family. Abducted as an act of revenge.

The clock is ticking, and the chances of finding his wife and children wane with every passing second. The assassin behind it holds all the answers.

Or does she?

Three demands. Three choices.

Blake Meyer knows what must be done...but can he accomplish it before it’s too late? Time is literally of the essence. And double time will not be fast enough.

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 getting closer! 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, 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
BookBub: C. Kevin Thompson