Friday, February 21, 2020

The “Good Stuff” by JoAnn Durgin

Meme with Ephesians 2:10

The “Good Stuff”

The family gathered on a recent Sunday afternoon for a very special celebration—our granddaughter Amelia’s fifth birthday party. My daughter and Amelia’s mother, Chelsea, made a festive cake with three different-colored layers and a design of chocolate candy beads on the top. If I may brag, it tasted as delicious as it looked.

Then it was time to open her presents! Like most children (and some adults), Amelia quickly tears away the wrapping paper in her haste to get to the gift inside. Her facial expressions are comical as she puts her hands over her mouth or lifts her hands in the air to express her delighted surprise with appropriate oohs and aahs.

My favorite moment of her birthday? With one of the first gifts, she ripped open the paper and then exclaimed in a joyful tone, “It’s a box!” You’d think the box itself was the best gift she’d ever received. I loved that moment of sweet innocence before she opened the lid to see the treasure nestled inside. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all be content with something as simple as a box?

Photo of wrapped gift
My mother was a master gift wrapper, especially for Christmas gifts. She expertly measured, creased, folded, and even used “invisible” double-stick tape. She fashioned gorgeous bows from different types of ribbon, pinecones, bells, and any manner of embellishments. Later in life, she lovingly handcrafted the tags. Mama took great pride in her creations, and without fail, the gifts looked professionally wrapped, worthy of the finest department store. My brother and I each received five gifts for Christmas, and my “special” gift each year (usually the one at the top of my wish list that I opened last) was wrapped in a beautiful gold foil paper with the same beautiful angel adornment every year.

I’ve tried to carry on my mother’s wrapping tradition, but I’m not quite as meticulous (double-stick tape drives me crazy!). When I only need one gift—for a wedding or baby shower, for instance—I love to create a unique design using artificial flowers and ribbons that starts on top and trail down the sides of the box. The most satisfying compliment is when someone says it’s almost “too pretty to unwrap.”

We all like and appreciate lovely things, but one lesson we learn as we grow older is that what’s on the outside is sometimes prettier than what’s on the inside. That lesson applies to people as well as things. First Samuel 16:7 tells us, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (NIV)

As a kid, I loved Tootsie Pops (and still enjoy them on occasion), but they can be an exercise in patience. Do you savor the hard, sweet candy on the outside? Or do you chomp through the candy to get straight to the chocolate-flavored, chewy Tootsie Roll inside? If you’re like me, you skip the outer candy entirely and simply buy a bag of miniature Tootsie Rolls! That works splendidly because I only want the “good stuff.”

That theory doesn’t work so well when applied to a novel, however. In the books we write, we can have a stunning cover, but we also need to make sure the story inside does justice to its beautiful exterior. Think of the cover and exterior package as the “wrapping” and the actual book as the “gift” nestled inside—the treasure, if you will. Focus on building a story world readers can immerse themselves in, filled with fascinating characters and a riveting plot.

What’s at the “heart” of your novels? Is the inside as pretty as the outside? Through your words, are you revealing the power of Christ to your reader—His redemption, grace, love, forgiveness, and promise of eternal life in heaven? If you can, that’s truly the “good stuff” that’ll give them something to savor and chew on. And that’s oh so satisfying indeed.

Until His Nets Are Full,

Matthew 5:16

What's at the "heart" of your novels? #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @Gr8tReads
Getting to the "good stuff" in what we write! #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @Gr8tReads
Is the inside of your book as pretty as the outside? #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @Gr8tReads

The Valentine Verse
The Valentine Verse

Valentine’s Day isn’t just for February 14th anymore! Love should be celebrated every day of the year. That’s Thornton Fielding’s philosophy. In spite of a few false starts in the arena of love, he holds out hope he’ll eventually find the woman of his dreams. The problem? He loves his job, and there’s no end in sight to his travels. But when Thornton returns to his tiny hometown of Cherish, Minnesota, he meets a beautiful and intriguing woman he believes might be God’s answer to ending his bachelor status—permanently.

Vara Alexandris is soured on love and scoffs at the notion of soul mates. But soon after meeting the handsome and unconventional Thornton, the speech and language pathologist suspects he might be the perfect ally to help jump-start her stroke patient’s recovery—if only Vara can keep Thornton grounded in Cherish long enough. This man who spouts romanticized and idealistic ideas about love seems all too eager to resume his world travels. Could it be Thornton actually prefers globetrotting in order to avoid a romantic relationship?

Is it time for Vara to call the dreamer’s bluff? And can Thornton convince Vara to put past heartache behind her and trust in God’s plan for her heart?

JoAnn Durgin
USA Today Bestselling Author JoAnn Durgin is the author of more than thirty novels, including the Lewis Legacy Series, Prelude, the Starlight Christmas Series, Catching Serenity, Hearts Design, Gentle Like the Rain, Whisper to My Heart, the Serendipity Christmas Series, the Treasured Vow Series, the Wondrous Love Series, If You Believe, Echoes of Edinburgh, Portrait, and The Valentine Verse. Her most recent release is Love on Assignment in Millcreek, Book 1 of The Millcreek Christmas Series. She’s also written three novels under the pen name of Julianna Desmond, her latest being Only A Whisper Away.

A former estate administration paralegal, JoAnn writes contemporary Christian romance full-time and lives with her family in her native southern Indiana.

Feel free to connect with her at
or via her website at

Thursday, February 20, 2020

What is a series bible…and why do you need one? by Lisa Phillips

Hello, fellow writers! *waves*

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Lisa Phillips. That is a COMPLETELY ACCURATE photo of me. (Guess who just realized she needs a headshot that’s not five years old?)

I love writing series novels almost as much as I love dogs. Don’t even get me started on my giant adorable Airedale ball of crazy. I’ll be here all day. I write for Love Inspired Suspense, and I indie publish on the side.

That’s two whole blogs right there. And who wouldn’t want to read one about dogs? I’d love to write about being a hybrid author—it’s a great way to make this writer career thing work. But it probably wouldn’t be as good as the dog one.

So…series bibles.
Instead of telling you why you might need one, I’ll do the writerly thing and SHOW you.

Here’s a quote from a book I wrote a few years ago. My first full series (so be nice, lol.) The first book is called Sanctuary Lost:

John looked at the guy in line ahead of him. Early thirties but he was nearly bald, his glasses drooped on his nose and he gripped his plate of mostly bread and green beans. “I’m Terrence Evangeline.” He pointed at an older couple by the salads. “That’s my mom, Shelby and my dad, Aaron. They run the town’s community arts programs.”

Now here’s a quote from book three, Sanctuary Breached:

“There is also the problem of Andy.”
Nadia glanced at the man for the shortest possible amount of time. Sure enough, Andy Evangeline was staring at her. Why, Lord? He’d been nursing a terminal crush for months now, and it didn’t seem to be easing off. Nadia was the focus of his attention every second he wasn’t at the recycling center. Who knew what he thought about when he wasn’t watching her or following her around. It was the last thing she needed in the middle of this.

See the problem?
Somehow *cough-distracted mom writer-cough* a secondary character who was Terrence Evangeline in book one, was suddenly Andy Evangeline in book 3.
Oh what, oh what, is a writer to do?

Here’s where genre came in super handy. See, I write romantic suspense. This particular series? It’s about a town of people all in the witness protection program, also known as WITSEC (witness security). People change their names in witness protection all the time, right?

Enter the solution. Book 5, Sanctuary Forever, we were back in town and ready to wrap things up—which of course meant I needed a solution.

“Hi, Andy.”
He crossed his arms on the counter and smiled. “It’s Terrence. I’ve decided to go back to my first name again instead of my middle name.”
He looked like he expected her to say something, but she didn’t. Why would she care if he was having an identity crisis? She didn’t even like the man and never had.

Two more series and a lot of books later, I’ve decided to make life easier for myself.

This is my new series. Aren’t my covers AWESOME? Seriously, my cover designer (now that I’ve decided to quit doing it myself *blog post alert*) is so good!
Me? More like, meh. But that was a solid business decision.

Another business decision I made with this series?

One designed to save me hours of headache?

A series bible.

Right now it looks a lot like a messy spreadsheet, but the moment the first character walked onto the page in Expired Refuge, I wrote down her name. Age. Occupation. Hair color. Defining features. Key personality traits. Family members who live in town.

And so on, and so on.

Every time I open that first draft document, the spreadsheet gets opened too. Is it foolproof? No, because I’m a human and we all make mistakes. But this will cut down on SO MANY continuity problems I don’t need and don’t have time for.

Businesses in town. Street names. People who lived there years ago. The name of the vet, who won’t get a novel about him until next year? All of it gets noted down.

So how about you?
Do you have a series bible, or a way to keep track of these details? I’d love to know your secret. Or maybe you could just tell me what the plural of “series” is, because clearly I have no idea.

And after you’ve left a comment, feel free to swing by Amazon, KOBO, Nook or Apple Books and grab a copy of Expired Refuge!! You can find out more at

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Adventures in Indie Publishing—A Good Cover Matters by Patty Smith Hall

My first month in indie publishing was an active one, and I didn’t even publish a book. Last month, I took a five-day Amazon Ad challenge with Bryan Cohen (he has another challenge coming up in April that I highly recommend,) started a website on WordPress, and wrote one-third of a new novella for Barbour which will satisfy my last traditional contract. So, out of all of this, what did I learn?

A good cover matters.

As I said earlier, I took The Five-Day Amazon Ad Challenge with Bryan Cohen, and as part of it, I had to make several different types of ads—automatic and keyword—then watch how these ads performed over several days to see which were more productive. For this project, I selected Courting Doctor Clark, one of the books Harlequin gave me back when the Love Inspired Historical closed down.

I was excited to advertise this book. It was part of the Heartsong Presents division that LIH bought out, but never promoted. But as the days drew out, I was getting clicks but no sales. When I asked Bryan about this, he asked me some pointed questions regarding my cover. Did my cover attract the kind of reader I wanted? Was it in line with my genre? If I saw my cover, would I want to buy the book?

So, I went back and looked at my cover:

Though I liked this cover, I’m not sure it appealed to my audience which is a thirty-five to forty-year-old woman who loves to read as an escape and enjoys history. It looked more like a regency than the American historical romance I wrote. If I was completely honest with myself, I probably wouldn’t buy it if I saw the cover alone.

After studying the one hundred best sellers in my genre, I contacted the new cover designer I’m working with, paged through her ready-art covers and found one that answered most of the questions Bryan had asked me. It’s not the perfect cover, but in order to see if my Amazon ads worked, I needed to change it fast.

Here’s the new cover:

Within twenty-four hours, I saw a dramatic difference in my sales and KU page read-throughs. I continued my ads through this month and to date, my sales/read-throughs have gone from the single digits to triple digit sales, a 3000 percent increase as of February 14.

So, what did I learn? Covers matter, particularly when you’re using Amazon to distribute your book. Think about it—when someone types in ‘historical romance’ into Amazon’s search engine, they’re presented with a list of books. No blurbs or reviews, just covers.

Like I said, covers matter!

What do you find appealing in the covers of your favorite books? Do you buy a book because of the cover? Why?

Covers matter, particularly when you’re using Amazon to distribute your book. via @pattywrites #SeriouslyWrite #amwriting


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.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

God Loves Me, But Do I Love God? By Shannon Redmon

God loves me.

This is a truth ground into our heads and hearts from the time we are children to adulthood. We believe that no matter what we do, God will always love us. We believe in a kind and merciful God and yes, He does love us with everything He is. But do we truly love Him?

The Bible reads, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17

Yet, on a recent popular television show, this truth was used to celebrate a choice that went directly against God’s Word. We see our world championing choices we know God would never condone and wrapping them in the words, “It’s okay if I do this immoral thing, because God still loves me.”

This should never be.

While God’s love never fails any of us, maybe we should consider this … “Yes, God loves me. But do I love God?”

When we love someone or something, we don’t choose to cause that person pain. We don’t choose to go out and do things that we know would intentionally hurt or fly right in their face.

But so many people who claim God’s love, live in a way that demonstrates a blatant disrespect for Him. The life of a Christian should represent the principles of His Word, a living, breathing testament to the love, faith and hope Jesus provides. Sometimes we all fall short. That just comes with being human. But when we knowingly celebrate the things God has clearly prohibited, then we need to ask ourselves do we truly love Him?

Often times in stories, we write about flawed characters. These imperfections connect with our readers and show their need for God. But if those characters, who choose Christ, were to never change, to never grow, to continue in their sinful lifestyles over the truth of God’s Word, then our story would be a lie.

The same is true in real life. When we ignore righteousness and dismiss sin with the phrase, “It’s okay because God loves me,” we show a lack of love. Our lives will never reach the potential God provides without a conscious effort to follow His principles. Our purpose on earth is to live out our love for Him.

When we truly love God and understand the mercy, forgiveness and peace He provides, then our daily choices will be a reflection of Jesus.

So today, yes, God loves you. Let’s let our lives love Him back.

While God’s love never fails any of us, maybe we should consider this … “Yes, God loves me, but do I love God?” @shannon_redmon @MaryAFelkins #amwriting #love

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, February 17, 2020

What is God's Best for Me? by Patty Nicholas-Boyte

Philippians 4:8 (NASB) 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I know, I’m being dramatic, but this is true in my life.

It was the best of times. I am a newlywed, I have a great job in a wonderful Christian organization, and I have family and friends who love and encourage me.

It was the worst of times. Even though I have had several of my devotions published in compilation books, and articles and blog posts have received recognition and publishing cred, what I really want still has not happened. Friends and writing peers are all receiving contracts for their books . . . But not me.

!Friends and writing peers are all receiving contracts for their books . . . But not me.

Have you been in the same situation? Do you feel lost, or like you are on an island, all alone in your writing journey? I know I've been there many times.

I’ve studied the passage in Philippians last year, and I recently came across my notes. What I found true just a few months ago, is still true today. God’s call to write was crystal clear to me back when I first heard it, and the call has never changed.

If I dwell on what God has for me, I know it will be His very best for my life. As hard as it is to not compare myself with my peers, the reminder to dwell on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, good repute, excellence, praise worthy is where I need to focus.

What is God’s best for us? Is it a book contract, is it a new request to speak, or is it a time of quiet with the savior as He prepares us for the next thing? Only He knows, but if we remain in Him, and dwell on His good things and His goodness, we will be blessed when the desires of our heart come to fruition.

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. 
She is a regular contributor to the Cove Blog.
Devotions are published in compilations by Lighthouse Bible Studies.

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Best Love Note Ever! by Dawn Kinzer

Photo of a book with a heart and rose

The Best Love Note Ever!

It’s Valentine’s Day, so it’s the perfect time to talk about love, right?

Movie poster for Valentine's DayMy favorite Valentine’s Day movie is called just that—Valentine’s Day. It came out in 2010 with a large cast of well-known actors, and it didn’t focus on only one type of love. Scenarios included first dates, longtime commitments, young crushes, connections to old flames, and parent-child love. There were so many ways viewers could relate to what the characters were experiencing. I appreciated that!

I believe most people yearn to be seen and loved for who they are. We long for intimacy—the kind that comes with a special kind of closeness, devotion, and selflessness, whether it involves romance or not.

How does this relate to love and writing, regardless of the genre?

With our computers—or our notepads—we become conduits through which the Holy Spirit can share God’s devotion and faithfulness via our novels, memoirs, children’s books, blog posts, etc. In so many ways, our words are love notes from God written through us. Using our stories, we have opportunities to reveal God’s unconditional love and acceptance—his grace and forgiveness.

Just like self-help books or Bible studies, fiction can teach and impact lives. Story-telling can point to God. Our characters’ experiences can encourage readers to begin a relationship with him—or desire a better one.

How do we accomplish that? We write about the real stuff and meet readers where they are—in the trenches. That requires vulnerability and a willingness to write pieces that include not only love, romance, fulfilled dreams, and other warm fuzzies—but also the tough stuff so many of us experience. Heartbreak. Divorce. Abuse. Broken relationships. Fears. Rejection. Chronic illness. Gossip. Slander. Financial crisis. The list goes on …

Our heavenly Father wrote the best love note ever when he gave us the Bible, and that message couldn’t be more clear.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. ~ John 3:16

Dear friends, when you feel discouraged about your writing life, don’t give up. You have important work to do! Please … go write those love notes! We have a world starving to read them!

Our words are love notes from God written through us. #SeriouslyWrite #encouragementforwriters
With our computers—or our notepads—we become conduits through which the Holy Spirit can share God’s devotion and faithfulness. #SeriouslyWrite #encouragementforwriters

By All Appearances
By All Appearances

Liana Tate, a special events planner grew up in a high-profile family. No matter what she does, Liana feels she never measures up.

Bryan Langley, a talented musician, was close to signing a recording contract when a barn fire left part of his face severely burned. He survived, but his career did not.

When Liana’s father hires Bryan as a caretaker on the family estate outside of Seattle, Liana’s and Bryan’s lives become entangled. He risks public humiliation for Liana’s success, and she encourages him to use his musical gifts, despite his reluctance. Thrown together, will they achieve their elusive dreams? And will the two find the love and acceptance they yearn for, or will their actions only drive each other away?

Dawn Kinzer
Dawn Kinzer is a freelance editor, and her own work has been published in various devotionals and magazines. She co-hosts and writes for Seriously Write. Sarah’s Smile is the first book in her historical romance series The Daughters of Riverton, Hope’s Design is the second, and Rebecca’s Song completes the trilogy. Her contemporary romance, By All Appearances, is set in the Seattle area where she resides.

A mother and grandmother, Dawn lives with her husband in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Favorite things include dark chocolate, good wine, strong coffee, the mountains, family time, and Masterpiece Theatre.

You can connect and learn more about Dawn and her books by visiting these online sites: Author Website, Faithfully Write Editing, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Amazon Author Page, BookBub, and Goodreads.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Goldilocks Syndrome By Patti Jo Moore

Once upon a time there was a writer. She loved to write, and happily enjoyed exploring life and new adventures with her fictional characters and settings.

When the writer decided to submit her writing, something happened to her. She was filled with doubts. What had once been an exhilarating (at times) writing experience, now became drudgery. She questioned herself as she finished each scene of a story. Had she included enough action in her stories, or were they dull? Was her story too brief, or could she have added more chapters? Had she put in too much description, often reading like “flowery prose” or did she need more description in her scenes, to make them come alive for readers?

These questions bounced around in the writer’s head, zapping all the previous enjoyment out of her writing experience. She began thinking of the well-loved story about a little girl named Goldilocks, who took a lovely walk one day and ended up in the home of a bear family. If you’re familiar with the story, you know that Goldi tried out the family’s chairs, beds, and even their breakfast they’d left cooling on the table while they enjoyed a walk that morning. Our heroine wasn’t satisfied with the original items she tried in the bears’ home. The chairs were either too big or too little, until she sat in one that was just right. The beds were too hard or too soft, until one was just right. The porridge was either too hot or too cold, until one bowl was just right.

As writers, we can easily slip into the Goldilocks Syndrome, trying and trying to get our stories “just right” but in the process never being satisfied, feeling frustrated, and never releasing them. We’ve all heard the advice that at some point, we must let our stories go. Yes, easier said than done. But we don’t want to reach the point where our writing is a headache-inducing chore and we dread our writing time each day. Sure, it’s hard work. Very hard at times. Yet we can still find joy in our writing, and pray that our writing brings joy into our readers’ lives.

If you’ve ever held onto a story for a long, long time, you may have experienced well-meaning family and friends, their surprised faces not unlike the bear family when they discovered Goldilocks asleep in Mama Bear’s bed. They may say something similar to: “You still haven’t finished that story? When will it be ready?” So after we’ve written and rewritten, polished and made our stories the very best they can be, we do need to release them and move on. There are more adventures just waiting to be written, and many happy hours of writing ahead.

Thank you for bearing with me for this post. 😉 Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have a bowl of porridge—I mean oatmeal—as I happily contemplate ideas for future stories. 😊

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established. Proverbs 16:3

Sadie's Dream

In a coastal Georgia town in 1900, a young woman prepares to serve as a missionary in Africa.

After being jilted the previous year, she's certain she's meant to remain single.

When she meets a handsome businessman from Savannah, she begins struggling with doubts.

Over time she learns that the Lord's plans are best, and dreams really can come true.

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, February 12, 2020

Lessons I Learned from Writing a Character Just Like Me by Carla Laureano

Every character I write has some bit of myself in him or her. Many times, when I’m writing someone who is utterly unlike myself, I give them a few of my own characteristics, just so I can relate to the character better. But this time around, Analyn Sanchez—the heroine of The Solid Grounds Coffee Company—has more than just a few similarities to me: she’s the cautionary-tale version of myself.

At the beginning of the story, Ana is a high-powered crisis publicist, dealing with clients who are various degrees of unsavory to repair their tarnished reputations. Every element of her life is scheduled from morning to night, all planned to give her the most efficient, perfect day possible. Of course, if you’re familiar with how these stories go, you know that doesn’t last long . . . and it’s the crumbling of her seemingly perfect life that helps launch her into the story (and, of course, into the hero’s arms).

It was easy to write Ana because I knew those temptations all too well. I, too, had worked in a corporate discipline that was long on appearance but short on balance. I took that same mind-set into my writing career, packing more into a single day than was actually possible or healthy, especially considering I had small humans at home to keep alive. But over the last several years, I’d gotten that tendency under control. I was taking more time for myself. I was working less, spending more time with family, and focusing on my health. I was on the other side of those issues, which meant that I had the perfect vantage point to write the character.

Or so I thought.

The funny thing about being a writer, especially a Christian writer, is that you start a book thinking it’s for other people, and by the time you’re done, you realize it was mostly for yourself. As I brought the story to a close, I realized that like Ana, I might have eliminated much of the hustle from my daily schedule, but I hadn’t completely dealt with the reasons behind that need for hustle: the quest for excellence that really just represented the desire for control of my own life, the buried belief that my worth was mostly tied up in my accomplishments, the prideful lie that people around me were counting on me to be perfect. Oddly enough, it’s not the first time I’ve written this theme in a book, and yet somehow I still find myself surprised that it applies to me.

I’m praying that this time, the lessons that I learned through writing The Solid Grounds Coffee Company will stick. But I think I finally understand, as Ana comes to in the end, that there’s no shame in being a work in progress.

" start a book thinking it’s for other people, and by the time you’re done, you realize it was mostly for yourself." via @CarlaLaureano #SeriouslyWrite #amwriting


Carla Laureano is the two-time RITA Award–winning author of Five Days in Skye, London Tides, and the Saturday Night Supper Club series. She is also the author of the Celtic fantasy series The Song of Seare (as C. E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Venn Diagrams Apply to Writers By Marie Wells Coutu

Remember math class and Venn diagrams?

If you’re like me (and many other writers), math was not your favorite subject. Bear with me and see how Venn diagrams relate to the writing life.

To refresh your memory, a Venn diagram uses circles to show the relationships between different sets of things. Areas where the circles overlap are the similarities, and areas where there is no overlap represent the differences. These diagrams are often used in business and academia to convey information.

You might use the circles in writing your novel to help you visualize the connections between your characters. Each circle can represent a character’s goals, and the overlap can show you where their goals are similar, perhaps helping you to see how you might depict the theme of the novel in different ways through each character.

In this very simple example, I’ve listed the goals of three characters. The areas where two circles intersect relates to one of their values, in this case, their attitude toward money.

We can see from the diagram that Jane has conflicting values: she believes money will help her gain popularity, but she also knows money can ruin people. John and Jerry both view money as a means to power but John sees that as a bad thing based on his personal failings, while Jerry desires the power that money will give him.

In the middle, where all of these values overlap, is where we find the major conflict for the story.

You could use such a diagram to picture your conflict, theme, or character epiphanies. When you’re outlining, this process may help you develop ideas for your plot. Or after your first draft, a Venn chart could help you identify a weakness or missing element in your character development.

(Hint: You can, of course, draw your diagram by hand but if you prefer to make such things look pretty, you’ll find the basic circles in Microsoft Word: Insert—Smart Art—Relationships—Basic Venn. The main labels for each circle will be there, but you’ll have to use text boxes to add labels to the overlapping areas.)

A diagram like this also can portray your life as a writer. One circle represents your spiritual life, one stands for your physical world, and one is the story you’re writing.

The challenge, as a Christian writer, is to allow these worlds to overlap. The points where your story intersects with your world, connected by your faith, are the points where God will use you to impact other people.

If our goal is to use our writing to spread the message of God’s love, we will pay attention to those intersections. Sometimes we have to come out of our writing cave and live out the lessons He is teaching us. That may involve serving our family, going on a mission trip, or reaching out to a needy stranger in a parking lot. And those interactions can often come full circle by adding spiritual depth to our writing.

Where do your circles overlap? And how can you use a Venn diagram to help with your current work-in-progress?

The points where your story intersects with your world, connected by your faith, are the points where God will use you to impact other people. #amwriting @mwcoutu @MaryAFelkins #writinglife

You can use a Venn chart to help you identify a weakness or missing element in your character development. #writingtips #amwriting @mwcoutu@MaryAFelkins

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.
She is currently working on historical romance novels set in the 1930s. One manuscript won the 2019 Touched by Love Contest and the 2019 Sheila Contest, and a second novel also won in the Sheila Contest.
Her published novels are women’s contemporary fiction. Her debut novel, For Such a Moment, won the Books of Hope Contest. The Secret Heart, her newest release, and Thirsting for More, the second book in the series, were finalists in several contests.

You can find more about Marie and her novels on her Facebook author page and her website,,
Follow her on Twitter @mwcoutu or on Amazon.

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Heart of a Dog

I have two novels to read and a paper to write, as well as preparing lesson plans for several classes I’m teaching. Winston, my dog, agreed to write today. Thanks, Winston!

By Winston Churchill

Since I was little, Master, whose name is Top-Dog, would sit on the couch with Mommy, Tall-Boy, and Peep. On their laps they stared at glow-trays or Books. I know what Books are, because one day my teeth ached and I wanted to chew, so I chewed a Book, and Top-Dog taught me what a Book was and not to eat them. Even though the house is covered in Books—on the tables and desks, even on the walls, I don’t eat them, because Books are what the family wants to talk about.

I don’t know why.
Winston Churchill

Their every moment, when not hunting for food outside our when they are in the doghouse, is spent reading Books and sometimes looking at their glow-trays. They once had a giant window with a strange light that they starred at, but it’s gone and they sit and look at Books more.

One day, Tall-Boy left. I sat at the front door and waited. And waited. And WAITED. I missed him so much! Days. Months. Oh BOY! I heard his footsteps, and he opened the door. It’s Tall-Boy. No wait, he’s Taller-Boy! And so strong! He sat on the couch, took more Books from a bag, and talked about them. And the family looked so interested.

I sat on his lap.

Top-Dog started looking at the glow-tray a lot. He’s a little grumpy, and Mommy walks me.

One day, a single sheet of paper came that made the family sad. Top-Dog worked on the glow-tray some more. And again, more sad sheets. And more looking at Books and glow-trays. And more discussions. Mommy and Peep (Tall-Boy left again, but I think he’ll be back with more Books to talk about) are giving Top-Dog kind words. I can tell the comments mean a lot to Top-Dog.

Another sad sheet, and this time Top-Dog was really sad. He didn't seem to know what to do. I sat with him, but he wasn't in the mood to do anything. Not glow-tray, not Books, not talking to Mommy or Peep. It was time for a drastic action. I took his favorite Book and bit into it. He jumped up and snatched the Book away and called me BadDog. The book fell open. He picked it up at looked at it for a few moments. He started crying. I couldn't help but wag my tail and nudge him, because crying comes before everything. He holds me for a bit.

He started back on his glow-tray, and then one day, he stopped.

He was so happy. A Book arrived. But this book was different.

It had his picture on it.

It makes him happy. And now, I have to sit at a glow-tray and help him type stories. But I don’t mind. It’s like the old days. With one difference. Every now and again, a new Book comes with his picture on it. And then it’s time to party.

I’m glad he didn’t give up.

I'm glad I didn't give up writing. But what does a dog have to say on the subject? @PeterLeavell #seriouslywrite #writerslife

If you won't write for yourself, write for your dog. @PeterLeavell #seriouslywrite #writerslife

My dog wrote my blog post! What does he have to say about the writing life? @PeterLeavell #seriouslywrite #writerslife

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, as well as History 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. An author, 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, February 7, 2020

Finding God in the Corners by Melinda V. Inman

Meme of writers and title of Writer Life

Finding God in the Corners

We are writers. We carve out little niches of quiet and tranquility in which to write. Sometimes these tucked-away locations are grabbed via noise-canceling earphones. Often they’re within our own home offices, hidden behind closed doors. Occasionally, we duck into little corners of coffee shops.

We find places where we can think, so we can pound out the words. These places are often sacred to us. Here we meet with God. Here we are inspired. Here we write the words he gives.

This past month, we tore up our nest. A relocation across town set us in motion for several weeks as we moved over a load or two a day, ripping up my places of quiet tranquility and turning them into piles of boxes in foreign locations.

On the final day, friends and family crammed everything that was left into a truck and then helped us haul it all inside the new place. Family returned the next day to help make order out of the chaos. Still, the new home felt cold, disordered, and alien. The bathrooms and quiet corners weren’t ours yet. In the darkness of night, I crept around in the house, feeling the strangeness.

We grew exhausted during the process, and the bickering began, the failed attempts at extending grace, the petty squabbles, all coupled with the many apologies. These lapses brought even more need for a quiet space to talk with God about both the internal and the external mess.

Would God meet me here in this unfamiliar place?

Yes! Yes, of course!

In all of this chaos and turmoil, I found that God was with me in the silence within my own head and around the corner where I stepped to figure out what had transpired that had provoked a conflict. God was with me under the covers at night where I sought refuge because he felt so far away, merely because I wasn’t in my usual spot. He was with me in the darkness of the wee hours as I left my warm bed and walked about experiencing the weird unfamiliarity of our new abode. Even then, I found God in every corner of the place. He was everywhere.

He gave inspiration for new work. He revealed future projects as I came across forgotten files. He provided even more corners and niches for silence and privacy in the arrangement of our new place. He met me where I was, speaking to me through the words of friends about the beauty and the hard times of life and how God meets us in those places. He wrapped me up in his love.

The Lord wants us to hear him. He wants us to find those places that allow us to commune with him. He will provide that space in the midst of wherever we are: in a crowded city, in a foreign land, on a mountaintop, in flight, in the wilderness, in conflict, and even in chaos.

When we turn our backs on a loud room, close our eyes, and fix our minds on him, he is there. We can even meet him in the darkness, seeking quiet refuge in a corner of our closets, when feeling shaken and out of kilter.

Dear writers, he wants us to find him, to seek his guidance, to listen in the quiet of our hearts for the gentle cadence of his voice, the soft warmth of his presence, so we can hear his words. But to do so, we must search for him with our whole hearts (Psalm 119). We must open our hearts and minds to whatever he has to say to us and be willing to act, to write what he gives.

If we do, we will be blessed with his presence, and the words will flow. Will we?

I found God in every corner of the place. He was everywhere. #SeriouslyWrite #Encouragement via @MelindaVInman
We must open our hearts and minds to whatever he has to say to us and be willing to act, to write what he gives. #SeriouslyWrite #Encouragement via @MelindaVInman

The Shadows Come
The Shadows Come

Sequel to No Longer Alone
(WW1 Based on a True Story)

Germany threatens all of Europe. Millions have died. President Woodrow Wilson makes the declaration that the United States must enter the Great War to rescue our allies. Congress approves. Our story begins. In America’s heartland, everyone hunkers down to provide food for the world and resources for the war effort. A draft is necessary, and all young men must register. One by one, these are called to war. With this threat looming, Prentis and Avery raise the necessary horsepower, cultivate the needed crops, and contribute their labors to the Red Cross.

But crises at home, an insidious busybody, and one after another called up to fight in Europe bring the greatest dangers they’ve ever faced together. Then there’s the influenza pandemic. Will they survive the war abroad and the war being waged at home, threatening their love and their lives? Will their loved ones make it home again?

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

Raised on the Oklahoma plains in a storytelling family, Melinda now spins tales from her writer’s cave in the South. Her fiction illustrates our human story, wrestling with our brokenness and the storms that wreak havoc in our lives.


Facebook Author Page:
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Thursday, February 6, 2020

When It’s Time to Let Go by Sally Shupe

We know it’s hard to let go. Hard to let go of how we do things, because we’ve always done them that way. Or, hard to let go of those few extra pounds we’re always trying to lose. Or, hard to go in one direction when we’ve gone so far in another direction. As I write this, I am learning to let go of my son. He got engaged over Christmas and is leaving home to move to Florida. 10 ½ hours away. We’re packing up today and driving down with him and his fiancé in the morning. But, by letting go of him, I get something in return. A soon to be daughter in law! And a chance to see a state I haven’t been to before. One that is much warmer than it is where I am right now, as an extra incentive. As I thought about this, writing came to mind.

Do you have a story that is just not quite working? Are the characters being more obstinate than usual? Not talking to you, or the scene is not working out? Have you received feedback that goes against what you thought your story would be? Maybe it needs to be let go. Could the story take place in the city instead of the country? Could the hero be a surfer instead of a snowboarder? (Someone had asked my son if he was trading in his snowboard for a surfboard. He said no, in case you’re interested lol.) Could it become a suspense instead of a sweet romance? Or maybe your editor or agent has requested changes. Do you find it hard to follow their directions and let certain aspects of your story go? How do you handle letting go of a story that you’ve worked so hard on?

Just as it’s hard for me letting my baby boy go, it’s just as hard to let a story go. One that we’ve worked on for a long time. We’ve gotten close to the characters. Watched the characters, and the story, grow from an idea, to chapters, to maybe even a completed story. But do you know what you get when you let certain things go? A better story! One that resonates with more people. One that is stronger.

Step back from your story and see it from all angles. Could your story benefit from letting go? Only you know the answer to this question. It may end up looking drastically different. It may take lots more work to get it where it needs to be. But we’re writers. Writing is what we do. Once you’ve looked it over, studied the feedback from editors, agents, or beta readers, dissect the story and see if what they’ve suggested makes sense. If it does, your story just may benefit from letting go!

Are you struggling with letting certain aspects of your story go? Or, have you had to let a story go? Please share how you handled it so we can all learn, and know we’re not alone. We can encourage one another along this journey.

How do you handle letting go of a story that you’ve worked so hard on? @SallyShupe1 #amwriting #writetip #seriouslywrite

Sally Shupe lives in southwest Virginia with her husband, two grown kids, and a whole bunch of pets: five dogs, three cats, a rabbit, and birds at the birdfeeder (and the mandatory snowman when the snow cooperates). She writes contemporary Christian romance, with two completed manuscripts and others in progress. They are part of a series located in small town Virginia.

When Sally’s not writing or working full-time, she is a freelance editor for several authors who write fiction and nonfiction; students working on dissertation papers; a copy editor for Desert Breeze (now closed); a content editor for Prism (became part of Pelican); performs beta reading for various authors; publishes book reviews on her blog and with Valley Business FRONT’s monthly magazine; is a member of ACFW and ACFW Virginia; and loves genealogy, running, and crocheting.

Sally uses her love of words to write about God’s amazing love.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

How to Waltz in the Wilderness by Kathleen Denly

Are you in the wilderness? If you’re reading this, chances are you aren’t there physically, but perhaps you are there emotionally and spiritually. What is the wilderness? How do you know if you’re in it? What should you do if you feel lost?

My debut novel, Waltz in the Wilderness, released yesterday. Although this was not the original title, it is the perfect title for my story because of the layered meaning within these words. My heroine, Eliza, experiences the wilderness in every sense of the word. Emotionally, she feels separated from those she loves. Spiritually, she feels lost in her relationship with God. Physically, she must enter and endure the wilderness to search for her missing earthly father. Like many of us, it is in the wilderness that she reconnects with her heavenly Father.

Many parts of this writing journey we’re on can feel like the wilderness. Whether it’s wondering why no agent has said yes to your proposal, which story you should write next, why you should even bother with this writing life at all, or something else entirely, perhaps like Eliza, you’ve experienced or are experiencing, something that has you feeling alone, confused, and unsure which way to turn. You could, as Eliza does, attempt to take things into your own hands and charge ahead, confident that your chosen route is the only way forward. However, as Eliza comes to realize, charging ahead without a guide and protector, often leaves you lost, in danger and even injured. So what should you do?

Look to our Leader.

Be patient in your confusion and lean on Him through any suffering. Trust that He has not abandoned you and has a plan for your good.

When women are waltzing, they often cannot see where they are going. In dancing, women are the followers and men the leaders. We must rely on our men to lead us in a safe path, yet if our connection is weak we cannot know which way he is leading. This is the reason ballroom dancers are admonished not to have floppy arms. That strong frame creates the connection that communicates from the leader to the partner which way, when, and how to move. As followers, we must be patient—attempting to move before the leader prompts us to, weakens our connection.

So whatever your current troubles, I ask you to pause and imagine yourself waltzing in the woods with floppy arms. It would be a dangerous activity with thorny bushes to bump into, above ground roots to trip over, and low-hanging branches ready to knock you down, should you misstep. However, you are not dancing alone. Nor are you dancing with an inexperienced or careless partner. You are dancing with the One who created you, created the world, and loves you more than you can know.

So while you’re in the woods, quit trying to peek over your shoulder or pull your leader along. Take a moment and check your connection. Strengthen it through communication (prayer) and getting to know your leader (Bible study). Then, enjoy the dance.

A time to weep, a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; Ecclesiastes 3:4 (KJV)

Many parts of this writing journey we’re on can feel like the wilderness. via @KathleenDenly #SeriouslyWrite #amwriting


Kathleen Denly writes historical romance stories to entertain, encourage, and inspire readers toward a better understanding of our amazing God and how He sees us. Award winning author of the Chaparral Hearts series, she also shares history tidbits, thoughts on writing, books reviews and more at


Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Every Letter Matters by Emily Conrad

The book’s tagline went something like this: A woman with a dark past and an evil enemy collie.

Wait. Did that just say collie?

As comical images filled my mind, I reread more carefully. The tagline should’ve read: A woman with a dark past and an evil enemy collide.

One letter makes quite a difference.

The word count feature recently reported that the story I’m editing right now is made up of half a million characters, including letters and spaces.

Though I love this story, it’s given me a fair amount of trouble. I’m on my third somewhat major revision. That means, writing the book took well over 500,000 keystrokes.

Tap, tap, tap. (Multiplied by 166,667!)

I never gave much thought to the single letter building blocks my hero and heroine and all their friends and faults and victories are made of.

But each is important, if that enemy collie is any proof.

Seeing that number helped me realize how much I’ve invested in the story and how each little letter impacts the whole.

At times in the writing life, progress seems to stall, but even the smallest keystrokes, revisions, and submissions add up.

Even if your novel is shorter than mine (which admittedly could use some cutting), you’ve likely amassed at least a quarter of a million keystrokes to compose even a short novel. And those keystrokes represent characters, plots, story arcs, hopes, and dreams.

If you’ve made it that far, take a deep breath. Appreciate the accomplishment.

If you haven’t completed a manuscript yet, you, too, can take heart. However much you’ve written, you’re on your way toward a massive accomplishment. One that would not be possible if you weren’t willing to invest in typing those first few words.

When we follow God to the keyboard, the task before us is monumental.

Not only will we strike these keys hundreds of thousands of times (or millions, if we don’t stop at our first couple of books), but our words carry weight one letter at a time. As they form on the page, God can breathe power into them that will reach readers we’ll never meet.

This writing thing is bigger than any of us, but the task is not bigger than the God we serve.

I know it’s easy to get bogged down in the process, but as long as we’re following Christ, one day, we’ll look back and see something far more amazing than a tally of our keystrokes.

Psalm 139 says each of our days are written in His book before there was one of them.

If our novels are made up of hundreds of thousands of keystrokes, and each of those carry meaning, can you imagine all the meaning and value God packs into the moments of our lives?

Sometimes, as we wait for the next big milestone, we forget the value of the little in-between moments. We get lost in the keystrokes.

But the Author of the Universe has penned our stories. Rather than concluding after two hundred or three hundred fifty pages, these stories stretch into eternity.

As His children, we’re promised a beautiful outcome there with Him.

In the meantime, we live one keystroke at a time in the faith that each will become a valuable part of our stories—the stories of our lives, and the stories we pen.

With God, each moment is worthwhile, and each letter makes a difference.

At times in the #writerslife, progress seems to stall, but even the smallest keystrokes, revisions, and submissions add up. via @emilyrconrad #nevergiveup #seriouslywrite

We live one keystroke at a time in the faith that each will become a valuable part of our stories—the stories of our lives, and the stories we pen. @emilyrconrad #writing #faithwriter #seriouslywrite

However much you’ve written, you’re on your way toward a massive accomplishment. One that would not be possible if you weren’t willing to invest in typing those first few words. @emilyrconrad #seriouslywrite #writetip #writing

Photo credits
Person using laptop Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash
Typing on typewriter photo by MILKOVÍ on Unsplash
Typewriter keys photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash


Emily Conrad headshotEmily Conrad writes Christian romance and a blog to encourage women of faith. 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 her novel 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.

The love of a lifetime, a quest for justice, and redemption that can only be found by faith.

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?

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