Friday, January 31, 2020

Conflicted About Contests by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Sarah Loudin Thomas
Have you entered writing contests—as a published or unpublished author? If not, have you considered it? Author Sarah Loudin Thomas shares her personal experiences and some insight. ~ Dawn

Conflicted About Contests

Carol, Rita, Christy, Inspy, Selah, Genesis, First Impressions, Badge of Honor . . . and those are just the ones I’m most familiar with.

Some contests are for pre-published authors, some for published, some for traditionally published, some for independent, and some mix it up. And only ONE story wins in each category. Which can leave those who DON’T win feeling . . . less than.

I coordinate a contest for pre-published authors at the Asheville Christian Writers Conference and here’s what I know about contests . . . are you ready for this? They are TOTALLY subjective. Scores can vary widely, which is why at least three judges per entry is ideal.

I entered a contest before being published. One judge gave the entry a near-perfect score while another, well, clearly thought it could have been better. MUCH better.

This past year I saw a dream come true—one of my stories was nominated for a Christy Award. I was over the moon! I adore the novel, Christy, especially since it’s set in my beloved Appalachian Mountains. Catherine Marshall even lived in my home state of West Virginia for a while. It’s the award I dreamed of when I signed the contract for that first novel.

I didn’t win, but as I watched each awardee mount the steps to the podium I turned my attention to the rest of the room. Way more authors remained in their seats than stepped on that stage. Not to mention the exceptional authors who weren’t even in the room. Goodness, I had some favorites last year that weren’t even on the list of nominations!

Which begs the question—why bother with contests?

For pre-published authors, I think it’s incredibly valuable when you get feedback and/or opportunities. Judges’ scores can point you toward weaknesses and strengths in your writing. Being a finalist or winning can sometimes get you in front of editors and/or agents. So if you’re starting out, jump into the fray! I entered multiple contests that provided invaluable input for improving my writing.

But what about the contests for published authors? What good is winning one of those?

  • For better sales? After signing my first contract I asked my editor if winning awards helped with sales. Not really. Okay, that’s probably not why.
  • For the prestige? Maybe a little bit. I mean, it IS fun to sit upfront at the ceremony and have folks congratulate you. Plus, you usually get something pretty to put on your shelf.
  • For the affirmation? Hmmm. This may be getting closer. Did I mention writing is subjective? Having a panel of judges say, “This is good,” is something of a relief. Writers are notorious for self-doubt.
  • For the credentials? Well, it’s certainly nice! If you read my bio you’ll see I mention some of the awards I’ve received or been nominated for. It’s a way of saying that someone thought my story was better than average!
  • To support organizations for writers? I love this one. Quite a few contests use entry fees for things like scholarships or to support an organization that provides services for writers. Even if you don’t final or win, you can feel good about supporting other writers.

I go back and forth on contests. I think they’re a wonderful tool for writers yet to be published, but I’m conflicted about entering now that I have some books under my belt. I guess the trick is to get real with myself about why I’m entering (or if I was nominated, why I hope to win).

So how about you? Do you think contests are valuable?

Why bother with writing contests? #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @SarahAnneThomas
Author Sarah Loudin Thomas shares reasons why writing contests may be valuable—and why they might not be helpful. #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @SarahAnneThomas

When Silence Sings
When Silence Sings

For years, Serepta McClean has towered over the coal-filled hills of West Virginia, taking more than her share of legal and illegal trade alike. She’s intent on securing the future of the McClean name, despite two unreliable sons and a long-standing feud with the Harpe clan that’s exploded once again into violence.

While many fear her, and many more despise her, few dare to stand against her. Especially not someone like Colman Harpe–a railroad man with dreams of being a preacher. And yet it’s a reluctant Colman, Serepta’s sworn enemy, who finds himself in this powerful woman’s territory, supposedly sent there by God himself to share stories of love and hope.

With the feud growing ever more dangerous, putting the entire region at risk, these two impossibly different people find themselves on a collision course. And the very lives of everyone close to them will be changed forever.

Sarah Loudin Thomas grew up on a 100-acre farm in French Creek, WV, the seventh generation to live there. Her Christian fiction is set in West Virginia and celebrates the people, the land, and the heritage of Appalachia. Sarah is a fund-raiser for a children’s ministry who has time to write because she doesn’t have children of her own. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Coastal Carolina University and is the author of the acclaimed novels The Sound of Rain and Miracle in a Dry Season–winner of the 2015 Inspy Award. Sarah has also been a finalist for the Christy Award, ACFW Carol Award and the Christian Book of the Year Award. She and her husband live near Asheville, NC.

Connect and learn more by visiting the following sites:

Thursday, January 30, 2020

How to Spark a Story Idea by Kristen Joy Wilks

Hello, my name is Kristen Joy Wilks, writer of RomComs and destroyer of houseplants! Today, I want to talk with you about story ideas. How can a story spark in real life grow into a full-fledged novel or in my case, novella? For me, I take interesting things that happen and then blow them wildly out of proportion. It’s a whole lot of fun and retains that tiny bit of truth that makes even a piece of fiction feel real. Let’s get started!

The idea for Yellowstone Yondering came when our family was camping in Yellowstone.

The park is visited by many tourists for whom English is a second language. Therefore, they try to make the warning signs clear to one and all through the use of terrifying drawings. My sons were amazed by the drawing of a young boy being tossed in the air by a raging bison, waving a bag of marshmallows as a grizzly charged toward his sugary snack, and succumbing to the boiling waters of a thermal zone as he cracked through the thin crust to his doom! The same hapless child was featured on all the signs and so my husband named the poor lad, Jimmy. As we toured the beautiful park and remarked upon Jimmy’s many perils, I got to thinking … . Writers are always trying to menace their characters with dangerous situations. What better place to menace a heroine than Yellowstone National Park? But she would have to break all of those perfectly reasonable rules. What could I do to cause such a rash of foolish behavior in an otherwise sane adult?

Put her pup in peril, of course! I promised my sons that I would include a crazed animal in every book (as well as a kiss and a concussion, but they are less concerned about the kiss, ha!) I once saw my grandmother dart in front of a moving car to scoop up her little Shih Tzu. So, I knew firsthand how people react when their dog is in danger. We read Death in Yellowstone by Lee H. Whittlesey aloud as a family while vacationing (remember, I have 3 sons) and discovered that a parkgoer once dove into a boiling pool after his dog. People love their dogs and tend to throw caution to the wind when a beloved pet’s life is endangered. I had my motivation!

Now, we did not bring our furbaby, Princess Leia Freyja, with us to Yellowstone. After discovering that one cannot take a pet on backcountry trails, boardwalks, or anywhere with a geyser or wildlife, it didn’t seem like the kind of trip she would enjoy. The rangers expect you to keep your dog in the car most of the time. I faced a problem. How to get my heroine and her pet out of the car and into some danger? Take away the car of course! When my paternal grandparents visited Yellowstone and were stuck in Hayden Valley as the bison meandered across the road, the driver in front of them was a man on a motorcycle. He nervously sat atop his bike as 1,000 to 2,000-pound bison walked by, close enough to touch. I knew that this would be the perfect vehicle for my heroine and her dog!

Now, to use a few more nuggets of reality to fuel the fiction. Family bear stories!

When my mother was a girl, they visited Yellowstone and tourists often fed marshmallows to bears. My maternal grandfather was happily feeding a black bear by their campfire, when he decided that the bear had had enough. Didn’t want to ruin his dinner, right? The bear disagreed. The result was my grandfather dashing around the campfire at his fastest sprint as the bear gave chase, around and around and around! Eventually, my grandfather tired and flung the marshmallows to the bear before escaping into their vehicle. On another occasion, when my paternal grandmother was out walking, she was bluff charged by a bear. This occurs when a bear would like to give you a firm warning. The bear charges straight at you and then skids to a stop at the last second, thumping the ground with his front paws and giving a deep huff of air in case all that charging didn’t get the point across. Being a woods-savvy lady, my grandmother did not run, but simple stepped backward slowly until she was standing behind a tree. This satisfied the bear and he went back to the elk head that he’d been nibbling. These great family stories provided lots of creative fuel as I imagined Ainsley (my heroine’s dog) in peril.

So, when something interesting, funny, clever, or weird occurs in real life … be sure to write it down. Then later, imagine the very worst that could happen in that situation. Keep adding trouble and hardship for your poor hero, peppering in fascinating facts from research and character growth in between the action scenes. Let that nugget of truth bring believability to even your most wild tales!

How can a story spark in real life grow into a full-fledged novel or in my case, novella? - How to Spark a Story Idea by Kristen Joy Wilks for #seriouslywrite #amwriting #writerslife

Amazon Buy Link
Yellowstone Yondering

When a free-spirited wildlife photographer loses her Scottish terrier in a herd of bison, she sets out to rescue her furbaby before he is devoured. But will she succeed when Yellowstone National Park is chock full of boiling, bubbling, and rampaging hazards (both mammalian and geographical) -- not to mention a rule-obsessed park ranger whose many rescues thwart her efforts to find her poor pup?

They say opposites attract, and when it comes to Kayla Dineen and Ranger Alexander Brandt, no two people have ever been more opposed...or attractive. Old Faithful isn't the only thing making noise at Yellowstone this season.

Kristen Joy Wilks lives in the beautiful Cascade Mountains with her camp director husband, three fierce sons, and a large and slobbery Newfoundland dog. She has blow-dried a chicken, fought epic Nerf battles instead of washing dishes, transported a gallon bag of cooked bacon inside her purse, and discovered a smuggled gardener snake in her sons’ bubble bath. Her stories, devotionals, and articles have appeared in Nature Friend, Clubhouse, Thriving Family, Keys for Kids, The Christian Journal, Splickety, Spark, and Havok. She writes romantic comedies for Pelican Book Group, including Copenhagen Cozenage, The Volk Advent, Athens Ambuscade, Spider Gap, and Yellowstone Yondering. Kristen loves to write about the humor and Grace that can be found amidst the detritus of life. Much like the shiny quarter one member of their household swallowed and then found in the pot four days later. If God is good enough to grant us these gems, she figures that someone should be putting them to the page. Kristen can be found tucked under a tattered quilt in an overstuffed chair at 4:00am writing a wide variety of implausible tales, or at If you would rather enjoy photos of charging bison, Newfoundland dogs, and attacking squid then by all means visit her “What I’m Writing About” board on Pinterest  Pinterest

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Five Tips to Organize (and de-stress) Your Business by Linda Shenton Matchett

I’m an office products addict. Give me a package of pens, a stack of sticky notes, or box of folders, and I’m a happy (and organized) camper. I can spend hours at my local Office Depot or Staples store. So many products, so little time.

Not everyone gets the same tingling feeling when it comes to organizing the business side of their writing career, so I’ve got a handful of low-tech tips that will hopefully make your life a tad bit easier, especially at the end of the year during tax time.

1. Envelopes: Purchase a box of 9X11 envelopes. On the front of each one, write the name of a tax category such as advertising, car expenses, membership fees, office products, etc. When you make a purchase, stuff the receipt in the envelope.

2. Three-ring binder with tabs: Clutter can be distracting, but so can having to hunt for that idea you scribbled on a scrap of paper or the print out from your research about the Oregon Trail or cell phone carriers in Europe. Create a notebook for every book you write (and are going to write). Make a tab for each aspect of the book: character bios, outline, blurb, cover ideas, and research. You may want a tab for each research topic.

3. Jacket folder: Pick up a plastic jacket folder in your favorite color. Label the jacket “Ideas,” and every time you write down a story idea or find an article of interest that could inspire a book, put it inside the folder. The sides and closure will ensure you won’t lose any of those precious jewels you think you’ll remember.

4. To do lists: Face it. There are myriad tasks that make up our writing careers and juggling them can be a struggle. Write down everything you need to get done (including writing the manuscript) in no particular order. After you’ve got everything on paper, group related tasks, then number the items in order of priority. As you complete tasks or new tasks arise, reorder the list.

5. Calendar: Choose the one that works best for you (paper or digital), then get rid of all your other calendars. Use just the one to record everything. If you’re maintaining more than one person’s schedule, use different colored inks for each family member. One week prior to any event, make a note on your calendar about what you need to do (e.g. send flowers, purchase paper products, make cookies) By making a note of the tasks ahead of time, you can stay on top of them instead of figuring out how to make six dozen cookies at ten o’clock at night for the following day.

Get ready….get set…go! You’ve got this.

...low-tech tips that will hopefully make your life a tad bit easier, especially at the end of the year during tax time. via @lindasmatchett #SeriouslyWrite #amwriting


Linda Shenton Matchett writes about ordinary people who did extraordinary things in days
gone by. A volunteer docent and archivist for the Wright Museum of WWII, Linda is also a trustee for her local public library. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, she was born a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry and has lived in historic places all her life. Now located in central New Hampshire, Linda’s favorite activities include exploring historic sites and immersing herself in the imaginary worlds created by other authors.

Under Ground ( It’s been six months since Ruth Brown followed clues to England and discovered the identity of her sister’s killer. When a bombing raid destroys her home and unearths a twenty-year-old skeleton in the cellar, her reporter’s senses tingle in anticipation of solving another mystery. Unfortunately, the by-the-book detective inspector assigned to the case is not interested in her theories. As Ruth investigates the case on her own, she butts heads with the handsome policeman. Will she get to the bottom of the story before the killer strikes again?

Under Ground explores the challenge of having complete peace in God (especially during emotional and physical danger), experiencing the joy found in following the path He sets for us, and trusting that He has our best interests at heart.

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Twitter: @lindasmatchett

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Impacting Our World by Emily Wickham

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, NASB).

Some time ago I considered a fabulous idea for my blog: a weekly feature titled “Impacting Our World.” I planned to interview missionaries along with ministry leaders and share their work with my readers. In a small way, my posts would spread the word about how God is using these Christian brothers and sisters, inspiring us to get involved through prayer, finances, or personal involvement.

While I love this concept, God stopped me. He revealed something I hadn’t truly grasped before.

For the longest time, I considered other Christians like missionaries, special interest ministry groups, and so on to really be doing God’s work. And they truly are ministering in worthy, fruitful ways I greatly admire, respect, and value. Yet I felt disqualified sometimes because I wasn’t serving the Lord in this capacity or in that endeavor—such as feeding the homeless regularly, sharing the Gospel overseas, or ministering outside abortion clinics. Focusing so much attention on the amazing work others do for God, I failed to realize…

God is using me, too. By His grace and because of His faithfulness, I am impacting our world.

The Lord has gifted me as a writer, and He’s given me a love for teaching His Word. He’s called me to this ministry—not Madeline’s or Joe’s or anybody else’s. God is using me to help build His kingdom in the way He designed for me beforehand.

I’m not world famous. I don’t stand out. I’m not absolutely incredible at anything. But none of that matters because I’m a child of the living God: chosen … holy and beloved (Col. 3:12). The Lord holds a purpose for my life, and He’s equipped me to accomplish the works He’s prepared for me to do.

God’s using you as well.

Does the enemy whisper that you’re not making a difference for Christ? Are you paralyzed by comparing your service to the way others serve God? If so, the Lord longs for you to embrace the work He designed you to accomplish.

Let’s focus on doing what God has called each of us to do. Let’s stop looking around and feeling ineffective just because the Lord uses others differently. Instead, let’s look up, confidently moving forward in Christ.

As we write the words God’s prepared for us, we’re impacting our world.

Note: A previous version of “Impacting Our World” first appeared on February 5, 2015 at

Are you paralyzed by comparing your service to the way others serve God? Let’s focus on doing what God has called us to do. via @emilywickhamPH @MaryAFelkins #WritingCommunity #SeriouslyWrite

EMILY WICKHAM seeks to stir hearts toward Jesus. She writes for LifeWay, speaks at ladies’ events, and shares “Devotions for Women” videos on social media. 
She encourages Christian women plus equips Christian writers on her blog, www.proclaiminghimtowomen.comShe is the author of one Bible study, which was translated into Spanish in 2016. 
Emily, a resident of North Carolina, is Mark’s wife of 30+ years. They are the blessed parents of four adult children and two daughters-in-love. God’s faithfulness and love inspire Emily on her journey through life as she purposes to exalt Christ through written and spoken words. 
Connect with Emily:
Alcanzando la Justicia
Do you know any missionaries to Spanish-speaking women? Or, is your church involved in outreach to the Hispanic community? Emily would love to put her Bible study on Esther into their hands, and she’s willing to fundraise for this purpose. Please see her website for more information. You also can purchase Alcanzando la Justicia on Amazon.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Rest, Renew, Reflect, Write

Christmas and New Year’s Day are complete. Wreaths and lights are being taken down and stored away for next season. Brightly colored Spring flags adorning bluebirds and others with red hearts are showing up at stores in town. More special dates are waiting to be celebrated. Birthdays, anniversaries, family get-togethers, church events and other meaningful events. Add to that list the everyday “to do” items. Laundry, meal planning and preparation, paying bills, work and trying to stay healthy.

When will I find time to write?

I have days filled with energy and excitement about writing and my “to do” list. Other days, I am exhausted from daily tasks and my writing gets put off to another time of day. Interesting thing I have noticed about myself.
When I take time to rest, I feel better and the words flow more freely. My mind and body need about 15-20 minutes of sleep each afternoon. Some days, just closing my eyes and relaxing helps give me energy.

Resting gives me opportunity for renewed energy. After pausing during the day and enjoying quiet time, I can reflect on my surroundings. Rest makes me notice the beautiful creations of nature God has given. This afternoon, tree branches covered with hanging Spanish moss are gently bending in the wind. With each bend, sunshine streaks through my home office window. The warmth of the sun enters and gives me peace.

Next, I can reflect on prayer concerns. I can share conversation with God and take my joys and worries to Him. Reflecting on the day and asking Him to guide me in every moment brings me peace.

Rest, renew, reflect and then, write… #seriouslywrite #writing @mimionlife

My body and mind are ready for writing and sharing messages God wants me to share. Finding a comfortable position in my office chair, I close my eyes and pray. I thank God for this day and all His blessings. I ask Him to give me words to write.

Yes, fun times and stressful times will come and go. How I react to those times will bring peace or more stress. I am ready to rest, renew, reflect and write.

What ways do you find time to write? Do you follow a schedule? Share in the comments. Your words may help another writer.

Melissa Henderson

Melissa Henderson is a writer of inspirational messages through fiction, non-fiction, devotions, guest blogs, articles and more. Her first children’s book, “Licky the Lizard” was released in 2018. Some of her passions are helping in community and church. Melissa and her husband Alan moved from Virginia to South Carolina in 2017 to be near son, daughter-in-love and first grandchild. The family motto is “It’s Always A Story With The Hendersons”. 

Website and blog :
Amazon link to "Licky the Lizard"
Facebook : Melissa Henderson, Author
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Twitter : @mimionlife

Friday, January 24, 2020

Even NASA has to Bow to Physics by C. Kevin Thompson

C. Kevin Thompson
Living here in Central Florida, we get a great deal of news about NASA, Spacex, and the International Space Station. Probably more than the rest of the country only because on a clear day or night, we can see the launches from Cape Canaveral in the sky to our east. Even seventy miles away. They are spectacular, especially at night. And as you might imagine, people travel from all around, setting up chairs, tents, and even campers along the coast to view the orange glow of the rockets.

As the intro to Star Trek said many times, space is the Final Frontier. The Wild, Wild West of the future. However, regardless of how spectacular a launch is, regardless of whether or not they are attempting a never-been-done-before experiment, the laws of physics still reign supreme. This is why NASA conducts test after test. They just had a Dragon capsule leave the ISS and return to Earth. One of the tests was to simulate trouble with the booster rocket and have it detach from the capsule safely. The capsule was to continue its descent into the Atlantic Ocean, to be retrieved, while the booster rocket was to break apart and disintegrate as it burned up entering the atmosphere.

Why would NASA and Spacex conduct such a test? The main reason is because they wanted to simulate a manned flight. If a capsule containing astronauts was on its return voyage from the ISS and the booster rocket malfunctioned, could they separate the two in order to protect the crew? If the rocket blows up, accelerates into the Earth’s atmosphere at breakneck speed, ignites at the wrong time and wrong angle of trajectory and propels them in the wrong direction, say towards Alpha Centauri, then the crew, in any of these scenarios, is as good as dead.

The other reason they conduct these tests is because physics dictates it. Gravity is strong. It takes a great deal of thrust just to get the rockets off the surface of the Earth. The weightlessness of space has a physics all its own. The reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere is always a dangerous proposition. Gravitational pulls, rotation of celestial bodies, temperatures, and more create an array of problems only an understanding of physics can help solve.

For us as writers, we too face similar challenges when we write a manuscript, speak to agents and editors, launch a new book, etc. There are many things we can do to plan, build, and enact our dreams, shooting for the stars in a way. However, the “physics of this world,” being God, His Spirit, and our Savior, has its own dictates around and through which we must navigate. If God chooses not to bless our writing at this time, but has plans to do so later, there is little we can do about that. We can build a better book through editing. We can spend more money on advertising. We can join a thousand Facebook groups and hold an infinite number of blog tours, but if the Master Physicist isn’t budging right now, good luck with trying to change the course of the space-time continuum!

Okay, Kevin, so what’s an author to do then? As Henry Blackaby says in his book, Experiencing God, “We don't choose what we will do for God; He invites us to join Him where He wants to involve us.” God is sometimes like a flowing river. Other times, He is like an ocean tide. Still others, He is a tidal wave! But no matter what simile or metaphor He resembles, our job is to join Him in, to seek where He is going, to inquire as to what He is doing, and become part of His divine plan. For ultimately, is that not what we are to do as the children of God (cf. Deut. 6)?

Could it be that God has indeed called you to write, but you are writing something (say, fiction, for example), believing it’s His calling, when He wants you to write something else (like non-fiction)? Could it be that He’s letting you build your “library” in preparation for one big “book blessing” that will open the reader floodgates somewhere down the road, in the future, making you a household name, so to speak? And would you be okay with that plan if God decided it should happened after you died (tough question, eh? But it’s happened before with other authors)?

Or, could it be that God hasn’t called you to be an author of books at all? Maybe he’s called you to write in some other capacity, like a journalist (Lord knows we need some good, truth-telling ones these days!), or a reporter for some genre/area you don’t even know exists yet? Like the student I heard about who took Agriculture classes in high school and hated them because she had no desire to bail hay or raise hogs. Yet, she loved animals, loved the industry overall, and loved to write. When she found out about publications “out there” in the industry of farming, she was elated. Now, she writes for several national agricultural publications as a reporter or sorts. She gets her hands “dirty,” but not in the traditional agricultural fashion.

The point is, whoever we are, wherever we are, if we call ourselves disciples of Jesus, then we must follow our God in the plans He has created for us. And I know, it’s difficult sometimes to differentiate between what God truly has planned and what we think He has planned. One “litmus test” I’ve learned (and am still learning as it applies to all aspects of life!) is this maxim: Jesus said, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). He didn’t say, “Go do what you wish, and I’ll bless it like a genie in a bottle.”

In other words, if I cannot justify my endeavors with facts based on His plan, then I’m probably rubbing a lamp. His plans are crystal clear. God doesn’t say, “Go!” and obscure our vision 24/7. When He reveals His plan, it’s easy to see. Our spirit knows it because His Spirit is confirming it in ours. However, when there is turmoil in my spirit, doubt in my soul, and reservations in my mind, then I need to toss the lamp and get on my knees.

So, we have to be honest with ourselves and with God. The physics of “our world” (cf. John 1:1-18), which incorporates the spiritual and the physical into one cohesive unit, dictates that we write under these laws. We don’t want to crash and burn, do we? Well, rest assured, He doesn’t wish that on us either. However, He will allow it if it causes us to build a better rocket and launch it as He directs.

Could God be letting you build your “library” in preparation for one big “book blessing” that will open the reader floodgates? #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @CKevinThompson
Jesus never said, “Go do what you wish, and I’ll bless it like a genie in a bottle.” #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @CKevinThompson

The Letters
The Letters


Rachel Hamar—a Manhattan bank teller—lives nothing close to a Manhattan lifestyle. Residing in Washington Heights, NY, the only thing keeping her in The Big Apple is her mother—a long-time patient in a local psychiatric hospital. It’s December, 2014, and the twentieth anniversary of her high school sweetheart’s tragic death. She’s not sure how much more heartache she can endure, especially after being told earlier in the day she no longer has a job at the bank. A casualty of downsizing.

In the midst of spiraling depression, Rachel receives a mysterious letter in the mail. When she opens it, she becomes cautious and skeptical of its contents and discards it as a mistake, concluding it’s simply addressed incorrectly or a postal worker’s faux pas in the midst of a busy Christmas season. But another letter arrives the next day. And another the day after that. Before long, she is in possession of several letters. Each one more puzzling than the last.

Thinking that someone may be playing a cruel game, she contacts the police, and this propels Rachel and the two detectives into one of the most bizarre cases they’ve ever encountered. Is it a friend’s cruel joke? Is it some stalker’s perverse idea of manipulation? Or is it something more?

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 second edition of his award-winning debut novel, The Serpent’s Grasp, is now available! The first four books of his Blake Meyer Thriller series are out as well. Book 1, 30 Days Hath Revenge, Book 2, Triple Time, Book 3, The Tide of Times, and Book 4, When the Clock Strikes Fourteen, are now available! Book 5, A Pulse of Time, is coming Memorial Day 2020! And, his new standalone novel, The Letters, is now available in e-book pre-order. The official release date is February 18, 2020!

Kevin is a huge fan of the TV series 24, The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, NCIS, Criminal Minds, BBC shows Broadchurch, Shetland, Hinterland, and Wallander, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic too. But you will never catch him wearing a deerstalker. Ever.

Kevin’s Writer’s Blog:
Facebook: C. Kevin Thompson – Author Fan Page
Twitter: @CKevinThompson
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Pinterest: ckevinthompsonauthor
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BookBub: C. Kevin Thompson

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Seasons of the Heart by Tanya Agler

Happy New Year! Is it too late to say that? January is the first month of the year and many people make resolutions, some of which are kept and some of which fall by the wayside. It’s also winter, although in Georgia, the days are alternating between warm and cool with little evidence of the nip in the air which heralds fires in the fireplace and blankets on cozy chairs. Thanks to social media, I’m seeing friends who are enjoying snow and other friends who are heading to the beach. The sights of the season are varied according to region, the day, and the temperature. Just as there are wonderfully different photographs and celebrations of the calendar season, I started thinking about writing and how writers have different seasons of the heart, all of which are personal and varied but are also blessings when we take time to examine the impact they have on us.

The calendar plays a definite role in the seasons as there is a start and end date to each season. In a similar fashion, sometimes the seasons of our writing journey revolve around publication. For some writers who are pursuing traditional publishing routes, it’s waiting for a call from an agent or editor with a contract for their book. For some, it’s the release of their debut novel. Other authors have released more than five novels and are still going strong.

Weather often plays a role in the way we think of each season. If I say winter, some people immediately think of a landscape covered in snow. Fall often brings images of colorful leaves. As far as writing, there are factors which play a role in scheduling writing time, such as work, family, time for Bible study or devotionals. Sometimes there’s a thunderstorm in our own lives and we have to examine whether God is calling us to write or to hold back until we handle the effects of the storm. Sometimes it’s sunny and warm and, on those days, I try to remember to say a prayer of thanksgiving before I start writing. Those seasons of our heart impact our thoughts and writing, and appreciation for each season can enrich our stories and the emotion hidden therein.

As we navigate the calendar seasons with the help of meteorologists, family, and different implements (umbrellas, snow shovels, etc.), so too do we have a support system for helping us navigate the seasons of our writing journeys and the seasons of our hearts. Prayer and time with God is a great start. Our writing support system can guide us through the downpours. Calendars, lists, computers, paper, and other tools can help writers plan out their time and aid us in transforming our stories from only being entrenched in our minds to novels. Sometimes, accepting the weather going on around us and allowing ourselves to cope with the impact of that weather is the best gift we can give ourselves.

What helps you in your current writing season?

Amazon Buy Link
The Sheriff’s Second Chance by Tanya Agler

Broken things can’t be fixed…
Or can they?
Officer and single dad Mike Harrison doesn’t believe in second chances. Ever. That is, until he learns that his former best friend—gorgeous green-eyed car mechanic Georgie Bennett—is back in town. Unfortunately, she’s also a suspect in a recent break-in! But it’ll take an old classic car to show Mike and Georgie that almost anything can be restored with a little patience…and a whole lot of love.

An award-winning author, Tanya makes her home in Georgia with her wonderful husband, their four children, and a lovable Basset, who really rules the roost. When she’s not writing, Tanya loves classic movies and a good cup of tea.

Visit her at or follow her on Facebook at and on Instagram at

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Essential Skills for Writers by Melony Teague

We all have our strengths and weaknesses as writers. Some are natural story tellers, others are gifted in perfect grammar and know exactly what to do with those apostrophes and commas. One thing is for certain, we all have different strong points when it comes to writing.

One skill all writers need is perseverance.

Honestly, if you aren’t going to persist through all the ups and downs of a writer’s life, then you won’t achieve your dreams. Talent can only take you so far. I bet there are many super talented writers out there who say to themselves, “One day I’ll write that book I’ve been dreaming of.”

Without discipline and tenacity, it’s not going to happen.

What does perseverance look like?

It means sitting back down no matter how many times you get up to go make coffee or tea in an attempt to procrastinate.

It means always pushing yourself to do the things you fear, be it guest posts, podcasts, reading another writer’s craft book, or sending your first chapters out to a contest.

It means showing up every day to write something. Whether it’s a to-do list, which keeps you motivated to reach your goals or whether it’s a journal post for your eyes only to work through a problem that’s curbing your creativity.

It means praying and seeking wisdom in all your decisions, especially those related to your writing. It means asking questions. Trust me, I’ve asked a gazillion.

It means not permitting yourself to give up until you’ve at least written 200 words. Even if you end up deleting them later, that’s 200 more words than you had yesterday. Most times you’ll end up writing more.

It means staying the course and being disciplined in your writing. I’m not talking about unrealistic, over the top, land yourself in hospital kind of craziness, but pushing yourself out of your writing rut and certainly out of your comfort zone is a must if you want to progress.

For each victory, celebrate! Then take the next step forward. Everyone’s ‘next step’ is going to look different.

Perseverance means giving yourself grace to have that meltdown, to ask for help, to be talked off that familiar writer’s ledge, but knowing those places don’t need to be a permanent camping spot. Wipe those tears, and move on.

Writing is a tough gig folks. Persevere, invest in your writing, put in the hours and you’ll see the fruit.

Honestly, if you aren’t going to persist through all the ups and downs of a writer’s life, then you won’t achieve your dreams. via @MelonyTeague #SeriouslyWrite #amwriting


Melony Teague writes contemporary romance with a dash of humor, she loves to inspire and motivate others through her written words, and she believes everyone has a story to tell. Melony is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and she is the co-author of As the Ink Flows, a devotional for authors. Her fiction debut, A Promise to Keep released, Jan 21, 2020. Melony was born in South Africa and now lives in Toronto with her handsome husband, their two teenagers, and does the bidding of her two adorable cats.

For More Visit the A Promise to Keep page
Available in Paperback on Amazon

About A Promise to Keep:

Research librarian Savannah Sanderson wants nothing more than to escape into her happily-ever-after novels with their larger-than-life fictional heroes. But a promise to her late husband has her attending her dreaded twenty-year high school reunion, drinking ghastly punch, and taking desperate measures just to keep her vow, even if she has to hide behind the d├ęcor to do it.

Once a reckless troublemaker, Michael McCann fled town after graduation. Now a professional technical rescuer, he’s back for the reunion, but on his trip down memory lane, he soon comes face to face with unresolved issues, namely Savannah.

Before the night is over, a pact between these two old friends will lead them on an adventure into uncharted emotional territory where Michael must confront his past regrets and find the courage to reveal the truth. But can Savannah fly from her sheltered nest and risk her heart on a real-life hero?

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

5 New Ways to Start Your Writing Year By Shannon Redmon

The year 2020 has arrived and I can still remember twenty years ago, when I was wondering if this world would make it through Y2K. Many experts believed Y2K could be the downfall of America, the end of man’s existence. The momentous scare at the time ended up being nothing more than a blip in time and the computerized world has grown into every area of our lives.

But let’s think what life might be like in another twenty years. I hope the passing of time will find that we have taken steps in our writing, finished our first book or attended our first writers conference. I hope we will have reached writing milestones and goals that are merely dreams today.

However, my fear is that some of us will still be wondering where the time went with only our lack of effort to show to others.

In the season of making New Year’s Resolutions, I want to challenge you to not make any false claims about grandiose dreams or outlandish writing goals and instead, start small. Try these five small things to get your writing career moving forward in 2020.

1) Buy a fresh new notebook and a pen or pencil
Not sure what it is about unwrinkled paper and blank pages, but something about a fresh notebook encourages an author to write. I’ve created many stories by doodling or writing random words until my brain created a story.

2) Brainstorm ideas
Take a couple of pages of that new notebook and brainstorm ideas. What kind of story would you like to write? Romance? Suspense? Or a combo? Let your ideas flow unhindered onto the paper. Think about your characters. What deep dark secrets do they hide in their heart that you as an author need to reveal?

3) Gather a group of friends
Some of my best story ideas have come from sitting around with friends and throwing out a suspenseful idea and writing down their thoughts. Not only is it fun, but some great scenes can come from the discussion.

4) Go people watching
My downtown area has some interesting characters milling around the square. Sometimes I like to visit and write down what I see. Unique characters can make a story all the more interesting.

5) Sign up for a writer’s conference
I cannot stress this enough. I know they aren’t cheap, but there are so many invaluable lessons to learn when attending, so many welcoming friends to make. Who knows, one of them may very well help you land your first book deal.

So, let’s not wait another twenty years to chase our dreams. Get started writing even if it’s something small.

Reach for your writing milestones and goals that are merely dreams today. @shannon_redmon @MaryAFelkins #seriouslywrite #amwriting #strategy #dreambig

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 her 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, and the Seriously Write blog. Her stories have been selected as a semi-finalist and finalist of the ACFW Genesis Contest and won first place in the Foundation’s Awards. She is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. The StoryMoore Blog is named in memory of her father, Donald Eugene Moore.

Connect with Shannon:
The StoryMoore Blog
Twitter: @shannon_redmon
Check out Shannon’s story in a compilation with other authors published by Revell.
The Horse of My Dreams

Monday, January 20, 2020

Writing Through the Impossible by Patty Nicholas-Boyte

“What if God allows, or even on purpose puts ministries and individuals in impossible situations so that he could do something in you, and do something through you that couldn’t get done any other way.” Chip Ingram 9/18/2019

Last September, Chip Ingram was the guest speaker at our staff devotion at work. I have thought about his talk often since that day. You see, the conference center where I work, was coming into our busiest months of the year while being significantly understaffed. How did we make it through? We made it with God’s divine protection over employee’s heath, time and energy. We all pulled together, we made it work, and God gets the glory.

As we finished all of our events for the year and took a collective sigh of relief when the last guest left the property, none of us could have imagined what happened that night. A small fire in the Training Center, which set off the sprinkler system, which worked exactly as designed, interrupted the peaceful end of the season.

The subsequent renovations have created an adversity that we never expected. However, this did not take God by surprise. In fact, he had prepared us for the impossible situation to come by the special guest speaker back in September.

While our true adversity is yet to be fully realized. We wait with bated breath for the good that God will bring from this moment of trial.

As we look forward in this New Year, I like many of you, have chosen a word and corresponding scripture verse to guide me. My word, “Vision.” My verse, Habakkuk 1:5.  

Habakkuk 1:5 (NASB) 5 “Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days— You would not believe if [a]you were told

While our true adversity is yet to be fully realized. We wait with bated breath for the good that God will bring from this moment of trail.

Besides the word and the verse, I, like probably many of you have also created writing goals for myself for this year. One of my goals is to complete two of my works in progress that I feel as though I’ve been working on forever. Often I came close to finishing one of these projects then something happened and I had to either do a complete re-write, or shelve one or both of them for a time to work on a new and pressing assignment.

I had many distractions and challenges last year, and I will be the first to admit, on occasion I cried in frustration. I knew my impossible situations that God allowed, would turn into a vision for the new year and a knowledge that God would work in me something above all I could imagine. I eagerly wait for all that God will bring through me and to me in the year to come.

What impossible situations has God placed you in that you can clearly see how His hand worked things for your good and His glory?

Are you in the middle of an impossible situation and you wonder how anything good could ever come of the mess?

Is there someone you know who is going through an impossible situation? Share this quote with them. Hopefully it will encourage them as it encouraged me.

Multi award winning writer, Patty Nicholas-Boyte lives with her Husband Brian 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, January 17, 2020

Staying Relevant and Creating Timeless Fiction by JoAnn Durgin

Photo of a purse with the playbill for the play Private Lives

Staying Relevant and Creating Timeless Fiction

I’ve reached an age where I feel as though I’m “dating” myself at times by mentioning certain people, places, or events in history—meaning those from my lifetime. I’m not quite as old as dirt—yet!—and I don’t feel old except when met with the blank stares from youngsters. Mind you, I’m talking about 25-year-olds, not children.

Let me give you an example. This past October, I commissioned a one-of-a-kind purse at the annual Craftsmen’s Fair in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The purse features a Broadway Playbill with legendary Hollywood “power” couple Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (see photo). To anyone else, the purse might be considered a mere novelty, but it’s a true treasure for me and brings back fond memories. Why? Because, like many things in my life, there’s a story to be told.

In brief, back in the early 1980s, my mother and I traveled to Italy. We had a marvelous week there and then flew back into New York where my best friend and her mother met us for a four-day weekend. We somehow managed to get second-row tickets on opening night to a Noel Coward play, Private Lives, starring Taylor and Burton. The play had fared poorly in advance reviews during its trial run in Boston, but no one cared. And we, like everyone else, wanted to see the two legends on the same stage together! The celebrities were out in abundance, and we sat so close to the stage that Richard Burton’s spit actually landed on me!

Let’s switch to movies for a moment. In the newest movie version of Louisa May Alcott’s timeless Little Women, my primary “complaint” is that it sometimes slips into modern vernacular in a glaringly obvious way. By vernacular, I mean the everyday language spoken by people today as distinguished from the literary language I expected. Neither did their behavior always “fit” in with the setting and time period. They were sometimes too open, casual, and modern. Not only does Jo lapse into a “Yeah,” but Amy says “Thank you, thank you very much” in the same way Elvis Presley made famous. That statement jarred me out of the story and had me muttering in my popcorn! A couple kissing in a very public place in plain view of others? An editor requesting a “spicy” novel? I seem to be alone in this opinion (and I enjoyed the movie very much overall), but maybe it’s the fact that I am an author and expected a more faithful interpretation of one of my most beloved childhood novels.

You may wonder how this applies to writing novels. I’ve read historical novels that similarly lapse into modern terms and behavior. While I understand this style might attract more readers by being more identifiable, I believe it’s a personal decision from the author on how to best present their story. On the flip side, contemporary authors will often slide into using an overabundance of pop culture terms (brands, actors, movies, etc.). Not that I believe this is a bad thing (and who can keep up with constantly evolving technology?), but give your characters their proper due in terms of motivations, goals, needs, wants, fears, and insecurities. Because that’s what will ultimately hook and keep the reader connected with your story.

So, how can authors stay relevant to readers of all ages? Write as the Lord leads, keeping in mind as you write that—no matter the genre or the setting—you want your stories to age well. If you can successfully accomplish that while remaining true to the setting and time period, like fine wine, they’ll go down that much easier tomorrow or fifty years from now. And that’s what will make them timeless.

Blessings, friends.
~ JoAnn

How to stay relevant in our novels from USA Today Bestselling Author JoAnn Durgin #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @Gr8tReads
How to make your writing timeless! Words of advice from JoAnn Durgin #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @Gr8tReads

Love on Assignment 
in Millcreek
Love on Assignment in Millcreek

Millcreek Christmas Series
Book 1

Lisbeth Lawrence never expected to be catapulted into a snowbank on a bitterly cold December night. Dazed and sprawled in the snow, she looks into the soulful eyes of the boy who’d stolen her heart ten years ago—he just didn’t know it. Rugged and more handsome than ever, he’s now a mystery man who travels the globe and turns up in town from time to time. The only person who knows the truth is one of Lisbeth’s physical therapy patients—and she’s not talking.

Miles Langston is close to personal and professional burnout when he’s given a unique assignment: go home to Millcreek, Connecticut, and regroup, recharge, and reconnect. What he didn’t plan on was accidentally sending a former classmate flying into a snowbank his first night back. “Lis” Lawrence, the quiet “good” girl with the prettiest eyes in school, has grown into a beauty who challenges his heart and mind from the get-go.

Brought together through their mutual love and care for his beloved grandmother, Miles and Lisbeth begin to experience miracles unfolding through the quiet good deeds of the “Millcreek Christmas Elf”…and in their own hearts. Can a man who rarely stays in one place for long find love and contentment with a woman firmly entrenched in little Millcreek?

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, January 16, 2020

Not the Right Time Yet by Sandy Kirby Quandt

Last May, as my husband and I drove north through Alabama to attend a writing conference, we looked for blossoming mimosa trees. We do this every time we drive on Interstate 85. We were disappointed and surprised to find fewer than usual trees with blooms.

On our return trip home the following week we spotted tree after beautiful tree full of blossoms. We tried to figure out what may have caused the lack blooms the week before. Not enough rain. Too much rain. Colder than normal winter. Warmer than normal winter. We're not horticulturists, so have no idea for the delayed blossoms. We settled for the fact it simply was not the right time for the trees to bloom yet.

Having spent the previous week with over three hundred writers, I couldn't help make the comparison between those mimosa trees and those of us who write.

We're all on different journeys. We don't achieve our goals, don't blossom, at the same time. Some of us bloom earlier. Some bloom later. Some of our dreams are achieved earlier. Some are achieved later. Some of us have a profusion of blossoms on our tree. Others don't have as many.

Even if our trees lack blossoms, that does not negate the beauty of our tree. No matter how successful or unsuccessful our lives may appear to others, or to ourselves, our lives continue to be beautiful when we offer them for our Creator God's purposes.

I've found when hopes or dreams are delayed, some people think they must know the exact reason for the delay. They theorize the reason for the delay is too much this. Not enough that. When honestly, in much the same way my husband and I theorized about the mimosa blooms, they don't have the slightest idea. And don't need one.

It's just not the right time yet.

The One who told the moon when to shine and the sun when to sleep, told the sea it could only come so far and no further, placed the stars in the heavens and the bars around Orion knows when our not the right time yet will turn into it's time now. The same way God told the blossoms on the mimosa trees that lines I-85 when it was time to bloom, he knows when it is time for our dreams to blossom.

As we wait for whatever dream we hold in our heart, perhaps we should remember the mimosas that bloom at God's appointed time and not one moment sooner.

Is there a dream you're waiting on to bloom?

Sandy Kirby Quandt is a freelance writer and follower of Jesus with a passion for history and travel. Passions that often weave their way into her stories and articles. She writes numerous articles, devotions, and stories for adult and children publications both print and online including Christian Devotions and Inspire a Fire. Her devotions appear in two Worthy Publishing compilation books; So God Made a Dog and Let the Earth Rejoice. Sandy 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 her blog, Woven and Spun.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Adventures in Indie Writing by Patty Smith Hall

Patty here, and as I shared with you in an earlier blog post, the closure of Lifeway’s brick and mortars was a wake-up call for me last year. Add that with the shrinking book space at Barnes and Noble, and I began to wonder where I, a mid-list writer, would fall in this ever-changing publishing scene. With the hundreds of books that are published each year, how could I compete for a cherished spot on the shelf? I have a healthy backlist of novels and novellas, but they’re getting very little traction in the market.

In other words, for all the time and effort I’ve put into my writing, I’m seeing very little fruit for my labors, and isn’t that why we write? So that readers can see Christ in the pages of our books? To show our characters living out their faith despite their problems? If my ministry is to put out books that point toward Jesus, what do I do if there’s no room on the bookshelf for me?

That’s when I thought about going indie. Indie publishing has lost the stigma it’s held in the past. For the most part, indie writers have learned from past mistakes. They’re hiring editors and professional cover designers to work with them. They’re advertising alongside traditional publishers and pulling in devoted readers, in some cases, making more money than traditional houses.

But indie publishing isn’t for everyone. I took a long hard look at myself to see if this could work for me. I’m a very independent person who doesn’t need a deadline hanging over me to get my work done. I work better alone. I have the financial means to hire editors/cover designers to make my books stand-out and to advertise. I have a good start on a backlist of books and novellas.

The only parts I didn’t have a grasp on was the business and tech side of going indie. Enter my husband and daughter. After years of being in charge of operations for a large international company, Danny is working from home and ready for a new adventure that will use his business skills. He loves the idea of working with me (I’m going to be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about it yet, but I’ll keep you posted!) And our daughter Carly records and produces her own albums as well as YouTube videos and podcasts.

As all the pieces fell into place, I felt as if the Lord was giving me His okay. I had a peace about it as well as an excitement that I hadn’t felt in a very long time.

But I had a lot to learn. Six months ago, I began my in-depth study of indie publishing. I took classes with Hallee Bridgeman (Hi Hallee!), listened to podcasts on the indie market and read books on the subject. I joined 20Booksto50K, a Facebook group made up of indie authors who share their experiences in the indie publishing world. Most recently, I joined a mastermind group of indie authors.

I’m ready to get started.

For the next year, I’m going to share with you my adventures in indie publishing, the good and the not-so-good. I will be transparent about my wins and misses as I navigate new and uncharted territory for me. I do ask you to do one thing for me—Keep me in your prayers as I embark on the next step in my writing journey.

Have you ever considered indie publishing? What held you back or pushed you forward in your decision?

As all the pieces fell into place, I felt as if the Lord was giving me His okay. I had a peace about it as well as an excitement that I hadn’t felt in a very long time. via @pattywrites #SeriouslyWrite #indiepub


Patty Smith Hall lives in North Georgia with her husband of 36+ years, Danny. Her passion is
to write tender romances based in little-known historical moments. The winner of the 2008 ACFW Genesis award in historical romance, she is published with Love Inspired Historical, Barbour and Winged Publishing, and is a contributor to the Seriously Writing blog as well as Journey magazine. Patty is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. 

4 Women Bring Southern Charm to a Cowboy Town 
Crinoline Creek, Texas, 1868
A Cowboy of Her Own by Patty Smith Hall

Bookish southern belle Madalyn Turner knows what she wants—to be a cowboy and own a Texas ranch. But books are far different from real life and soon she realizes she needs help.