Thursday, April 30, 2020

IN A WORLD OF WHAT IFS? By Sharee Stover

A favorite book plotting tool I use is the “What If?” game. I ask myself the question throughout the course of a story’s development. Of course, in the beginning when I’m researching, I ask “what if?” in a general sense, for instance when I’m pondering a possible plot.

When I’m in a scene and want to up the ante, I ask, “What if?”

And when I’m doing edits I ask, “What if?”

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The whole point of asking, “what if?” is to make our characters’ lives a little more miserable. I know that sounds incredibly cruel but, the bigger their challenges, the bigger their victories. Or failures. It’s okay to have both.

The risks and adventures in their journey give our characters life. The way they handle situations brings out their inner fears, beauty, and values.

And in the end, our characters grow and mature. At least we hope so, because an unchanged character is boring.

I can’t help but wonder if God allows the “what if?” periods of our lives for similar reasons. When we have life all figured out, we’re busy being busy. In those times when I feel most in control, I’m checking off things in my dayplanner, scheduling appointments, meetings, and events. I’m crossing off items on my To Do list and feeling like I have got this thing handled. And it’s those moments where I fall into the false sense of security that I’m in control of my life.

But throw in a “what if?”, mix it up, take away my planner, add in a pandemic … and “what if?” becomes an in-my-face reality.

In those uncertain times, the “what ifs” free us to ask questions, explore new ideas, and admit we don’t have a clue how to handle a situation. It’s where we throw up our hands in full surrender and admit we aren’t in control.

Like that’s news to God.

But friend, sometimes, it’s news to us because those “what if?” moments ground us in reality, setting us back where we should be. On our knees admitting to God that we are not in control and honestly, it’s all a little unnerving.

And it’s there in the quiet, in the place where I’ve cast my care that I find He is fully in control.

What if God loves me enough to take care of today?

What if God loves me enough to take care of tomorrow?

Does that mean I’ll live sheltered in a bubble fully protected from every bad thing? Of course not. In fact, this year has been one of the toughest I’ve faced and it’s not even summertime.

But it does mean I am not alone. And neither are you. No matter what is on the other side of “what if?”, God’s in control. And because I belong to Him, because you belong to Him, He’s got us. And if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).

Someone’s after a deadly weapon…

and only she can stop them.

It’s undercover ATF agent Randee Jareau’s job to make sure the government’s 3-D printed “ghost gun” doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. So when someone goes after scientist Ace Steele, she must protect him…before she loses the undetectable weapon and its creator. But with a mole inside Ace’s company and everyone a suspect, this assignment could become Randee’s last.

Colorado native Sharee Stover lives in Nebraska with her real-life-hero husband, three too-good-to-be-true children, and a ridiculously spoiled dog. A self-proclaimed word nerd, she loves the power of the written word to ignite, transform, and restore. She writes Christian romantic suspense combining heart-racing, nail-biting suspense and the delight of falling in love all in one. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Sisters in Crime, and Nebraska Writer’s Guild. Sharee is a triple Daphne du Maurier finalist, winner of the 2017 Wisconsin Fabulous Five Silver Quill Award, and her debut, Secret Past, won Best First Book in the 2019 National Excellence in Romance Fiction Awards. When she isn’t writing, Sharee enjoys reading, crocheting and long walks with her obnoxiously lovable German Shepherd. Visit her at

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

What We Do by Gail Pallotta

Writing is hard work, a challenge. Getting from one end of a book to the other sometimes seems like walking through a maze, especially when one is a pantzer at heart. However, even pantzers need a skeleton outline to follow. Once at a conference I heard James Scott Bell sum up his workshop on plotting by saying something along the lines of the following. I can’t recall his exact words, but the gist of it was: Remember, just when you work things out, here comes trouble. Work that out, and here comes more trouble.

And layer. A good book needs more than one problem going on at a time. Say the book’s a romantic mystery. Perhaps someone finds a dead body, so there’s a murder to solve, but that isn’t enough. If the two people trying to crack the case are attracted to each other, they can have a falling out and need to work through their ups and downs to find happiness in the end. If one of them deals with a personal problem, such as a fear of commitment or an abusive past, finding an answer adds to the plot. If we want to raise the stakes, we could give one of them a stalker, and let that person fear for his or her life. Also, let it be unclear if the stalker has anything to do with the murder. Throw in one of them facing a job loss, and we’ve probably gotten the reader’s attention. Then we only need to tie up the loose ends in an interesting way that satisfies the reader. Maybe I exaggerated, but that’s the idea.

Sometimes when I’m having trouble getting a plot as it should be and making my characters act in fascinating ways, I complain to my husband about how much I regret I have no talent for bookkeeping or another profession that’s exact. He always says, “But that’s what you do.” Those of us who fall into that category must keep writing, learning and adapting to the trends because that’s what we do. 


Getting from one end of a book to the other sometimes seems like walking through a maze, especially when one is a pantzer at heart. via @Hopefulwords #SeriouslyWrite


Award-winning author Gail Pallotta’s a wife, mom, swimmer and bargain shopper who loves God, beach sunsets and getting together with friends and family. A former Grace Awards Finalist and a Reader’s Favorite 2017 Book Award winner, she’s published six books, poems, short stories and two-hundred articles. Some of her articles appear in anthologies while two are in museums. She loves to connect with readers.


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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

When Discouragement Strikes, Try These Things By Sondra Kraak

When I wrote my post two months ago, promising to be back in April with thoughts on discouragement, I had no idea how apropos it would be.

No doubt, discouragement has crept into some aspect of your life these past weeks of unprecedented self-isolation. I’ve seen many writers on Facebook talking about how hard it is to write during this season.

On a personal note, my family’s summer plans were destroyed, not just because of coronavirus, but because of an unexpected health problem with my husband. We had planned months for our family sabbatical, during which we’d travel around the west backpacking and camping, making memories our children (ages 13 and 10) would remember forever. A once in a lifetime trip, we called it. It’s been hard to let myself feel the disappointment of this loss.

Perhaps you are suffering from the same heaviness of having life—and your carefully laid plans—upended by circumstances beyond your control.

This heavy mantle is what I call discouragement. Discouragement is disappointment on steroids. Disappointment is a natural, emotional reaction to something that doesn’t go our way, someone who’s let us down, or an expectation not met. Discouragement is when that disappointment takes up house in our hearts. When I am disappointed, hope still glimmers at the edges of my frustration. When I am discouraged though….hope is locked away, and the key is nowhere to be found.

Kind of like what we see with Cleopas and his friend as they walked away from Jerusalem toward Emmaus after Jesus’ death. Luke 24 tells us this story, highlighting the soul-crushing discouragement of these disciples. Unaware that they are walking with Jesus, they say to him, “They crucified him, but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”

My breath catches at the utter sorrow of this statement.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

Maybe discouragement is making you sick. This is no light thing with no easy solution. Seeking a licensed counselor is always a wise option. We are, as this pandemic has showed us, community-oriented people who need to talk, pray, and be with others. Finding someone to help you work through the deep waters of life is a great option.

Asking questions of ourselves is also a great option, and maybe the place to begin. Ask yourself:

• Where am I discouraged? If it’s hard to pinpoint, imagine yourself as Cleopas and his friend. Finish this statement, “I had hoped….” Journal out where your emotion takes you.

• And now ask, what am I going to do about this discouragement? Cleopas and his friend pushed on in normal activities: they ate because they were hungry. Sometimes, it’s as simple as that. Do the next right thing. At other times, it’s more complex. Thomas had to touch Jesus to move past his discouragement. Peter had to have a fireside fish-fry with Jesus, in which he humbled himself before his Savior three times with, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Here is an example from my career as a writer:

• I am discouraged with my sales. I had hoped that I would make more money last year to help my family, but the world of independent publishing is a hard one right now.

• I am going to set deadlines for myself and keep writing. I will not look at the sales of others. The next right thing is the next sentence typed. And then after this book, I’m going to take a break—whatever that means. This break will probably include some humble fireside fish eating with a risen Savior, and maybe some professional help if I feel so led.

Finally, from a practical standpoint, here are some tips for writing through discouragement in this crazy time.

• Don’t neglect your physical needs of healthy food, exercise, and sleep.

• Check in with a writer friend once or twice a week for encouragement and accountability

• Don’t pretend everything’s fine. Journal each day, allowing yourself to confess hard things.

• Set boundaries with the members of your household. Let others know your expectations about when and how much you want to write.

• Keep a list of the things that must be done (laundry, vacuuming, etc.), then don’t let that list control your time. Do a few things each day and draw others into the tasks. You don’t have to do it all.

• Tend your soul. Pray, read scripture, listen to music, list thanksgivings. Whatever feeds your spirit, do it. Reach for joy but give yourself permission to feel discouraged.

How are you doing as a writer right now? I’d love to hear stories from the front lines of your battle with discouragement, or simply your new way to do life as a writer during this time of quarantine.

Reach for joy but give yourself permission to feel discouraged. @SondraKraak @MaryAFelkins #amwriting #encouragement #authenticity #seriouslywrite

Connect with Sondra

Such A Hope
NOTE: On sale for $0.99 through April 28.

Washington Territory, 1871

Anna Warren grew up on the seat of a wagon, the daughter of Seattle's busiest freighter. After her father’s death—a tragedy away from home—she returns to their cabin on the outskirts of Seattle, seeking the sense of belonging that eluded her childhood. But will her desire to pray for miraculous healing for the sick and wounded endear or alienate her to the community? Her most aggravating challenger is also her staunchest defender and has brown hair and eyes, stands six feet tall, and farms with unchecked tenacity. Tristan Porter. This farmer her father had befriended holds more secrets than Yesler’s Mill holds logs.

When ugly rumors arise about her spiritual gift and her property, Anna fears her quest to find belonging will be thwarted.

Tristan holds the truth to set her free, but revealing it will require him to face the disappointments of his past and surrender his plans for the future—a sacrifice he’s not sure he can make.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Waiting, Writing, Waiting, Writing...

In my home office, I sit at my desk and write new stories. Devotions, articles, children’s stories, fiction, blog posts and even snail mail letters and cards to friends and family.
When the coronavirus news entered everyday news and conversation, I noticed writers asking questions like, “Should I put aside my writing for now? Publishers are not
looking to acquire any new stories. Maybe I should not write anything new.”

These were conversations found on social media and in writing groups. I am thankful to writers and publishers who are encouraging writers to keep writing. Every day brings the opportunity to write. This is a great time to encourage other writers.

While we wait for restaurants to open for inside dining, stores to open without taped lines on the floor directing us where to stand, the social distancing requirement of staying six feet apart to end and other ways we are being affected, keep writing.

Yes, keep writing. Jot your story ideas on a notepad, make a list on your phone, create a colorful folder to keep at your writing desk and fill it with ideas for stories.
Whenever a story idea comes to your mind, be prepared to save the thoughts. Distractions can easily make us forget a great story line. Don’t let distractions take away your creativity.

While we wait, let’s write. Write about the impact of the coronavirus, write about things you hear or read that have an affect on daily life, write a joyful article that will help people during this time of sadness. Write about the compassion you witness or hear about.

During this waiting time, remember to write, write, write. Encourage authors by posting reviews for their books. Comment on social media posts and send uplifting words to another writer. Your words can have a positive impact.

During this waiting time, remember to write, write, write. @mimionlife #seriouslywrite

Are you writing today? Share some favorite topics you will be writing about in the future.

Melissa Henderson

Melissa Henderson is a writer of inspirational messages. Her first book for children, “Licky the Lizard”, was released in 2018. She also has a story in the compilations “Heaven Sightings” and “Remembering Christmas”. She contributes articles and devotions to various magazines and websites. Her passions are helping in community and church. Melissa is an Elder, Deacon and Stephen Minister. She and her husband Alan moved from Virginia to South Carolina to be near son, daughter-in-love and first grandchild. The family motto is “It’s Always A Story With The Hendersons”.
Follow Melissa on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and at

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Amazon link to "Licky the Lizard"
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Friday, April 24, 2020

Writers Anonymous by C. Kevin Thompson

C. Kevin Thompson
I recently read a book for an author review/endorsement. I’ve done several over the years and am always flattered to think another author would even be okay with me endorsing their work. As I read this particular book, I found myself thinking of how the author could have “done this” and “done that” to make it better. After each chapter, I would have to check myself and remember the genre was different. The parts and details I wished would be present—but weren’t—would have been great additions…within the genre I write. Not this one. As I thought about other reviews and endorsements I’ve done in the past, I remembered similar feelings when the book’s genre was different.

I run into the same issues when I read books, watch movies, or binge TV shows for pleasure. I’m always analyzing, examining, wondering why. It’s almost as if becoming an author has tainted me as a consumer of other people’s works. The genres in which I write cause me to see the worlds I depict a certain way, limiting me in the absorption of what could be.

To run our particular races, these lenses with which we write tend to put blinders on us, like a horse ready to run the Kentucky Derby. They serve a purpose. Therefore, whether it be the suspense/thriller race, or the romantic comedy race, or the historical fiction race, as a writer, these blinders help us to stay focused so we don’t end up with multi-genre, will-the-author-please-make-up-his-or-her-mind flops.

As a reader, however, and as a consumer, these blinders tend to do the opposite. We miss things others enjoy because our vision is limited to our genre’s POV. We can’t enjoy it as much as we could have because our minds are “working” instead of relaxing and being entertained.

I have found that when I purposefully wipe my mind clean and instead ask myself beforehand, “Please, just read/watch this, and see if you can pinpoint what all the fuss is about,” I find myself seeing some things I may not have seen otherwise because I’m looking at it with my blinders off.

I’m not sure writers who love what they do can “turn it off” completely. Even my question above has a hint of “What can I learn from this?” embedded within it. However, I have found that if I can get the blinders off and realize there are genres out there that can entertain, embolden, or inspire, and they are not my favored genres, then I’ll grow as a writer by osmosis.

A recent growth moment was watching the 1980s, Megan Follows’ version of Anne of Green Gables a few nights ago. The main character’s arc throughout the series was very well done (from her initial walk in the woods, quoting The Lady of Shalott, to her embrace of Gilbert Blythe on the bridge). I’ve seen the mini-series before, but I appreciated this aspect more than I had in the past. Anne’s growth as a character, changing herself and others along the way, was very powerful, even if some of the fawning of other characters was a little overdone at times. This genre is definitely a departure from what I typically read and watch!

So, am I the only writer who deals with this “addiction,” or are there other writers out there dealing with the same affliction?

Who will join me in this Writers Anonymous group?

I have found that when I purposefully wipe my mind clean and ask myself beforehand, “Please, just read/watch this, and see if you can pinpoint what all the fuss is about,” I find myself seeing some things I may not have seen otherwise... via @CKevinThompson
I have found that if I can get the blinders off and realize there are genres out there that can entertain, embolden, or inspire, and they are not my favored genres, then I’ll grow as a writer by osmosis. #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 now available: Book 1, 30 Days Hath Revenge, Book 2, Triple Time, Book 3, The Tide of Times, and Book 4, When the Clock Strikes Fourteen! Book 5, A Pulse of Time, is coming Memorial Day 2020! And, his newest standalone novel, The Letters, is now available in both e-book and paperback!

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:
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Thursday, April 23, 2020

God Works Upstream On Our Behalf by Sandy Kirby Quandt

Writers spend a lot of time waiting. We wait for manuscripts to come together just right after multiple critiques, edits, and more edits. We wait to hear back from agents, editors, and publishers. We wait on God’s perfect timing to open doors previously shut. Some of us may even need to wait following a manuscript’s rejection before tackling it again. I know I do.

The Israelites did a lot of waiting before they crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land. When they reached the river, they camped four days beside its banks. As Joshua went through the camp, he told the people to prepare. The Lord was about to do a great miracle. God would lead them across the river.

The people waited beside the water’s edge. What they saw was a river at flood stage, overflowing its banks, standing between them and the Promised Land. How would they cross it?

What they couldn’t see was God working upstream on their behalf. They didn’t know the moment the priests stepped into the water, the river would pile up as though blocked by a dam, and drain to the Dead Sea. The only thing the people knew was what they saw in front of them at that moment in time. They didn't know all they had to do was wait for the river to flow by. Once it did, they would walk across a dry riverbed to the Promised Land.

As writers, oftentimes we stand on the riverbank and wait while God works further upstream on our behalf. We wait for him to intervene, to hold back the river, and lead us safely across on dry land. When we can’t see God's hand working, we might wonder why he delays. We might doubt we heard him correctly. Is this the river he intends for us to cross? And if so, has he heard our cries for help? And if he heard our cries, is he going to step in and save us from the rising waters that block our way?

Although it may take longer than we would like, we can trust God is working on our behalf. What rivers are you waiting to cross while God works further upstream?

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, April 22, 2020

Writing the Right Age by Kathleen Vincenz

There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

When I was a young mother of sons, I read everything about childhood development; I subscribed to Parents magazine; I talked to other moms. I knew when to expect the first tooth, the first smile, the first word. I tracked it in a notebook. I could spy a child in the neighborhood and know if the child was 15-months old or 2 years. Later I could tell a sixth grader from a seventh grader, a freshman from a senior.

Now all that knowledge is as faded as the notebook in which I wrote it down. How do I get it back so I can write that children’s book I dreamed of writing since I read my oldest his first picture book? What‘s a twelve-year old today? A sixteen-year old? What’s a writer to do?

· Watch current children’s television

Disney and other content providers have many good series about tweens and teenagers. In particular, the Disney+ series Diary of a Future American President compares the interests of twelve-year old Elena, the protagonist, with those of her fifteen-year old brother, Bobby. The show focuses on Elena’s awkwardness and lack of sophistication. She cares about getting along and being with her family, while Bobby starts to venture out and look for advice from others. A warning though. Later episodes in explore sexuality that you may not want to watch with younger children.

· Read a classic children’s book

A classic children’s book provides a protagonist who is true to the core of childhood. Think of a series that follows the protagonist as she grows like Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery or the Betsy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. Because no movies, video games, or technology distract them, the children are shown at their purist.

Many of the older classics also demonstrate the socioeconomic impact on childhood development, such as Judy’s Journey by Lois Lenski. It tells the tale of Judy, the oldest daughter of a migrant worker, who at 10-years old feeds, babysits, and nurses her family but is still interested in a pretty dress made from a flour sack.

· Study childhood development
There’s nothing wrong with studying childhood development like the young mother I once was did. You can read a blog, borrow a science book from the library, or find a back issue of Parents magazine.

· Observe children

If you don’t have grandchildren or children of your own, sit yourself beside a family in church, at the park, or at the pool. Listen to their language, their perspectives. How they interact. What they discuss. New gems to be stored in a notebook. It’s not snooping—it’s observation!

· Take a magical journey

Now get physical. Stoop down on all fours. Now kneel. How is it different? Crouch and see what it’s like to open the refrigerator. Sit on the floor and watch the sun creep across and touch your toes. See the world from a child’s perspective.

I hope these tips help you write a children’s book for the ages. 

Tips for making your child protagonist age-appropriate via @kathyvincenz #SeriouslyWrite #amwriting


Kathleen Vincenz is the author of Over the Falls in a Suitcase and God's Sparrows. She is also the author of many articles and short stories and the founder of Squirrels at the Door Publishing.
She writes a blog about all things vintage, as well as a children’s newsletter, with a bit of science, history, and reading and a lot of fun with Larry the Squirrel, the mascot. Find them at 

Covers design and drawing by Danny Vincenz

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Pesky Bugs are Successful by Shannon Redmon


They are persistent. They are quick. And they always seem to get their bite.

As the weather warms, I’ll whip out bug spray and cover myself in stickiness to avoid looking like a fresh case of walking chicken pox. I’ve got to give it to those little bloodsuckers, they know how to get the bite at all costs, even risking death with one crushing blow. They might die in the end, but their lingering effect continues on for days, as I drown cotton balls in pink chamomile lotion and dab on my legs for temporary relief.

And what about the stink bug?

Those little guys are determined to find every nook and cranny in my house. The other day I wore my coat to a wedding and the lady behind me said, “Hold still. You’ve got a stink bug crawling on your collar.”

Those little smelly beasts succeed in driving us batty and if we even think about returning them to the outside, they leave a nasty scent for us to remember them by.

These relentless pests can teach us a few things about writing.

1) We should never give up
The persistent widow in the Bible never stopped. She had a mission and she planned to see her goal accomplished. In Luke 18:1-8, we see this woman continually going before a godless judge for justice. She did not stop and the judge gave her what she requested.

As writers, we need to go to God everyday about our writing journey. He’s our shepherd and knows exactly where he wants to lead us, but often times we ask more advice from others instead of asking for the One who can do something about our journey. We don’t see the widow go to anyone else but the judge, because the judge is the one who had the power to give her the request.

And at the end of this parable, Jesus says, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

He wants us to come to him and keep asking.

2) We should take the risk
No one will ever be a published writer if they don’t try. That’s one accomplishment our mosquito friends seem to have conquered. They buzz in our ears and return time and time again until they sink their needle-like mouth under our skin.

I’ve got friends who talk a great game about being a writer, but unless we put the words on the paper, empty talk leads only to hot air … which brings back the mosquitos. Sigh.

We have to be willing to sacrifice other things if we want to succeed in writing. No ands, ifs or bites about it.

3) We should consider our lasting impressions
Like the stink bug, we need to leave behind a scent for future generations to remember. As long as it doesn’t smell bad. Our stories should stink of worldliness, but instead bring glory to God and build up mankind. Will our words encourage or tear down? Bring hope and light?

Words can destroy or they can strengthen others. I recently had a situation at work where someone asked for ideas about an issue. I had a thought and spoke up, only to be ridiculed. The first response made me never want to give another idea again. I was shut down. But then someone else kindly responded, “Actually that’s a good idea and think it would work.” With his words, he ushered in acceptance, life and hope. And that’s what we must give our readers.

So next time our pesky friends buzz in our ears, maybe we need to listen to their message … before we smack them into oblivion.

Words can destroy or they can strengthen others. @shannon_redmon @MaryAFelkins #amwriting #seriouslywrite #persistence

Like the stink bug, we need to leave behind a scent for future generations to remember. As long as it doesn’t smell bad. @shannon_redmon @MaryAFelkins #amwriting #seriouslywrite #persistence

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, available on Amazon

Monday, April 20, 2020

Nehemiah's Prayer by Patty Nicholas-Boyte

I’ve been going through the book of Nehemiah for several months now, both at work and in my personal walk. I find the lessons I am learning have been relevant in every area of life. I feel what Nehemiah experienced through the trails of rebuilding not only walls of Jerusalem, but also to re-establish the nation of Israel, and God’s people is relevant to what we are going through today during a global pandemic. While I love to write romance, intrigue and story, but it seems to be times such as these that bring me back to writing about what I am learning through Bible study.

My day job as an event planner has basically been put on hold, and instead I am spending hours each day on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s national prayer line. During the terrible time we are in, I realize there are a host of people who are hurting, lonely and desperate. To be able to minister to these people, I find the need to spend much more time in the word and in prayer for myself so that I can pray for others.

I find the need to spend much more time in the word and in prayer for myself so that I can pray for others.Click to tweet it!

I am sure I am not alone in the need for extra prayer before conducting any business for the day, whether it is for my writing or for my day job. So today my fellow writers, I hope that you permit me to share with you some of what God is teaching me about prayer.

Nehemiah 1:5-11 (NASB) 5 I said, “I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, 6 let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned. 7 We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. 8 Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples; 9 but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell.’ 10 They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand. 11 O Lord, I beseech You, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name, and make Your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man.” Now I was the cupbearer to the king. 

I love Nehemiah’s prayer. He was bold, as well as specific. There is one thing that I see in the prayer above all else, and that is Nehemiah did not begin with his needs or the needs of the nation. No, he began with a reverence and an acknowledgement of who God is.

  • He is the God of Heaven. (v5) 
  • He is the God who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and Keep His commandments. (v5) 

Even though the needs of God’s people were many, Nehemiah’s next words were not a petition to the Lord for help in time of trouble. No, he confessed the sins of the nation, and reminded God of his promise to bring the scattered people home. Finally, we see his specific request to God.

“I beseech You . . . be attentive to the prayer of your servant . . . make your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man.” (v11) He was cupbearer to the king. What can we learn from Nehemiah?

  • When he prayed, he declared God’s greatness. God is great no matter what our circumstance and deserves our praise and reverence. 
  • He reminded God of His loving kindness and of His promises. 
  • He confessed the sins of himself and he confessed the sins of his nation. 
  • He asked for a specific request, and that was to be successful when he asked for help from the king. 

While Nehemiah’s Prayer was simple, it was not easy. What questions can we ask ourselves so that we can affect change?

  1. What does it look like to slow down and acknowledge God’s greatness first? 
  2. Have we let the current circumstance overtake our ability to see the greatness of God? 
  3. What promises of God can we remind Him? 
  4. What scripture can I turn back into a prayer to God? 
  5. What specifics and not general things do I need to ask God to grant?
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, April 17, 2020

Ready, Aim, Write! by Kathleen Friesen

Kathleen Friesen

When we first begin writing, we may have a variety of reasons for putting pen to paper. We may try little of this and a little of that, with no real goal in mind. Author Kathleen Friesen shares part of her personal journey to publication and what helped give her direction. ~ Dawn

Ready, Aim, Write!

I must confess, the term “target audience” meant little until asked for whom I write. My initial response? “Anyone who will read my stories.” Bzzz! Incorrect.

Once the annoying buzzer noise faded, I pondered the question. The word “target” carried me back long, long ago to the camp I attended as a teen in Oregon where one of my favorite activities was rifle shooting. After safety instructions, we were led to an open field dotted with a line of targets in the distance. Far distance, as I recall. Our leader told us to lie on the ground with our propped elbows providing stability for the rifle, which was held securely against our shoulders. He then told us to close one eye, with the other peer down the open sight of the weapon and line it up with the middle of the target. We had to ease back on the trigger, brace for recoil, and Bam! Bullseye! Well, not at first, but with practice, I did manage a few impressive clusters.

When I began writing, it wasn’t directed; I simply needed to express myself. My weapon was my pen and paper (and later, computer), and the ammunition my thoughts and feelings. Since they weren’t shared with anyone, the lack of focus didn’t matter.

Once I dared to reveal my heart to readers, I continued to write mostly for myself while allowing others to peek into my soul. Scary! That was my first novel, Melody’s Song. It began as an assignment for Jerry Jenkins’s Christian Writers Guild where I was required to begin a novel. “Write what you know,” I was told. So Melody’s story began. She was a widow. I was not, but I’d worried plenty about becoming one. The more I wrote, the more of my life, terrors and hopes revealed themselves in this fictional character. My goal, in the beginning, was simply to complete the task and receive feedback and a good grade.

But Melody and the other characters wouldn’t leave me alone. It took five years of on-again, off-again writing before Melody’s story became a book. The assignment morphed into a dream. Perhaps my story could touch and encourage other women’s hearts. Without realizing it, I had a target audience: women who suffered, who wondered now and then if God really cared, who longed to feel secure. Women who needed to know they mattered. Just like me. Without actually aiming, I’d found a target.

My second novel, Nila’s Hope, both defined and broadened that objective. Introduced in Melody’s Song, Nila endured much more trauma than I’ve ever known. Her story hadn’t been planned, but Nila’s voice spoke even more loudly. She needed her story told, so my target audience grew to include abused women. Oh, how I longed to offer them the hope Nila found. However, being able to tell her story meant I needed an extra “propping” of research. I had to be accurate to be realistic. Some of what I learned hurt more than a rifle’s recoil, but my target made the pain worthwhile.

In each of my books, while some aspects of the stories aim at different groups, they have several things in common. As in my own experience, my characters tend to have average education and wealth—blue-collar people, no royalty or billionaires. The main characters are nowhere near perfect, but each one knows or comes to realize she needs the One who can meet her deepest needs. Faith is an integral part of each story as the characters, male and female, learn to trust Jesus Christ whatever their situation.

Words are the rifle, my imagination and God’s Word become the ammo, and research stabilizes the story aimed at real women seeking hope. This is my mission, my goal…my target.

When I began writing, it wasn’t directed; I simply needed to express myself. #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @KFriesenAuthor
I had a target audience: women who suffered, who wondered now and then if God really cared, who longed to feel secure. #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @KFriesenAuthor
Faith is an integral part of each story as the characters, male and female, learn to trust Jesus Christ whatever their situation. #seriouslywrite #encouragementforwriters via @KFriesenAuthor

Love is in the Air
All you have to do is look up.

This collection of five brand new romances is sure to send your heart soaring. Journey from Canada to Georgia and Colorado to Paris by way of Michigan as these couples find love is in the air. All they had to do was look up.

Titles include:

First Class Wrong Flight by Laura V. Hilton
A Castle in the Clouds by Candee Fick
Flying Into Love by Kathleen Rouser
To Gain Forever by Tanya Eavenson
Written in the Clouds by Kathleen Friesen

Boxed Set Releases on May 10, 2020

Pre-order now for 99 cents: Kindle, Nook, D2D UBL, Kobo, Apple

Kathleen Friesen writes contemporary stories of faith that overcome tough trials and deep heartaches. Her desire is for her readers to see themselves in the characters of her stories, and to realize that Jesus Christ is the true hero.

Kathleen spent her childhood in Washington and Oregon, and after marrying the Canadian man of her dreams, she moved to his country—the first thirty years in Saskatchewan, then several in British Columbia and recently, back to Saskatchewan. When not engrossed in a story, she loves visiting family and friends, glamping, and gardening.

Connect with her and learn more at the following online sites:

Author Website:

Thursday, April 16, 2020

No-No Naysayers Have You Down? Seek Out the Encouragers by Cynthia Herron

From the moment we’re born, encouragement takes root.

Mom and Dad cheer as we try and succeed at new things.

Friends motivate us with kind words and recognition.

Our influential sphere—confidantes and colleagues—inspire us to persevere and think beyond the comfortable.

During our life journey, as we mature, we realize the value of encouragement. It buoys us during life-stretching seasons. It strengthens our resolve and boosts our confidence.

It grows us in ways we don’t often recognize until we’re farther along on the path.

Perhaps, it’s this encouragement that shapes our next journey. Perhaps, it’s the sum of everything we’ve ever experienced and the realization that without the bad, we can’t fully appreciate the good.

We can’t inspire others in their journey unless we’ve struggled in our own. (I’ve shared my journeys here and here.)

And sometimes, we balk at the journey because, let’s be honest—the muck and mire part aren’t fun. The crud is real and it’s hard.

We may want to linger a while and absorb the emotion.

That’s okay.

For a time.

Then we move on.

We go to those bright spots that prompt joy—the ones that cause hope to surge.

Whatever your bright spot—writing, gardening, crafting or creating—here are five thoughts to consider during your journey.

I promise you’ll feel better.

1. Why Positive People Have More Fun – Have you met “Jackie”? Here’s why I ask.

2. How to Stay Motivated Despite Chronic Complainers – No-No Nellies will zap your energy. Healthy ways to disengage now.

3. Trapped By Doubt? Ditch It! – Sometimes, you’ll fail. Relax. You’ll move past it.

4. Ditch Doubt, Define Your Destiny – Reboot your mindset and reshape your thinking. Why your life depends on it.

5.Don’t Be Daunted by Dream-Crushers – Kick agendas to the curb. Reframe your focus.

Bonus: Why Joy Matters – Happiness isn’t a given. Truth beyond the crud.

Now, a little story for you.

When I was in grade school, I dreaded the possibility of one day having a specific teacher. Even as a child, I recognized his teaching style as iron-fisted and unyielding.

“Mr. Downer” (not his real name, of course) was tall, dark, and anything BUT handsome. His brooding countenance didn’t lend itself to attractiveness. He never had a kind word for the students and he rarely smiled. To complete the picture, Mr. Downer’s thick, bushy eyebrows beelined across his lower forehead making him seem perpetually frustrated.

The day I found out he was to be my teacher for the next school year, I promptly threw up. I wondered how I’d ever survive.

Already, I sensed he didn’t like me. Mr. Downer detested anything fun. Laughter, smiles, questions, creativity. You name it.

Still, just like my favorite heroine, Pollyanna, I pulled out my “glad card” and determined to be glad for at least three reasons:

• It could always be worse. I didn’t see how, but that’s the line I’d always heard adults use.

• Maybe Mr. Downer wasn’t such a grumpy soul after all. I bet I could cheer him up. And maybe, just maybe, a pig would fly.

• Perhaps, Mr. Downer was a great teacher. And one can put up with a lot if there’s motivation to learn. Good grades = grade advancement and a new teacher the following year.

I’ll never forget the morning I whispered to my neighbor…and got caught.

I was actually answering my classmate’s question, but of course, I was the one Mr. Downer heard.


Immediately, he summoned me to the front of the classroom.

“Recite the ABCs for us.”

Oh no.

I was in fifth grade. I knew Mr. Downer’s tactic, but I didn’t fully understand the term yet. I understood the emotion though. Humiliation.


I proceeded to rattle off the alphabet to the horror of all my classmates and to the smug satisfaction of Mr. Downer. AND, worse, he made me do it a second time.


My stomach hurt. My knees knocked. The room swirled around me.

Mr. Downer gloated.

It was the longest 47 seconds of my life. To this day, I’ll never, ever forget it.

This experience shaped my life’s journey.

It didn’t define it, but it gave me perspective.

I resolved to encourage.

From that day forward, I would never, ever intentionally make anyone feel the way Mr. Downer had made me feel.

Only meanies use heavy-handedness. Only meanies force, coerce, manipulate, or maneuver.

Only meanies bully or belittle.

Encouragers, on the other hand, demonstrate integrity and compassion. They’re confident, not cocky.

Encouragers serve others. They gently guide and correct with the right motivation. They’re deliberate, but not in dehumanizing, devaluing kinds of ways.

Encouragers may make tough decisions for valid reasons, not to inflate their own egos, but to propel others forward toward a mutual God-sized mission.

Today, as you navigate your journey, think about your life calling. Look to those folks you admire and ask yourself why.

What is it about him or her that sets them apart?

Are they on a collision course with ego or a trajectory path to truth? (You know, truth for the sake of what’s right. Not what’s convenient or the next best thing.)

Evaluate a person’s character, his track record, and what he has to offer.

Encouragers don’t manufacture respect.

They own it without force. Creative angling isn’t necessary.

They’ve earned it.

Your takeaway?

Allow others to encourage you. Forego the drama. Forget theatrics.

As you soak up the sunshine, revel in it. Remember it.

Tuck all the “feels” down deep in your heart.

Trust your journey.

Share it.


How has someone encouraged you during your journey?

How can we motivate others who need a pick-me-up?

Cynthia writes Heartfelt, Homespun Fiction from the beautiful Ozark Mountains. Her Hope Discovered, her d├ębut novel and the first in a three-book series, released December 2018 with Mountain Brook Ink. 

“Cindy” has a degree in psychology and a background in social work. She is a member of ACFW, ACFW MozArks, and RWA. 

She is a 2020 Selah Award (Double) Finalist, a 2017 ACFW Genesis Finalist, a 2016 ACFW Genesis (Double) Finalist, and a 2015 ACFW First Impressions Winner. Her work is represented by WordServe Literary.

Besides writing, Cindy enjoys spending time with family and friends. She has a fondness for gingerbread men, miniature teapots, and all things apple. She also adores a great cup of coffee and she never met a sticky note she didn’t like.

Cindy loves to connect with friends at her online home. She also hangs out on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

For love, fun, and encouragement ~

Sign up for Cindy’s monthly e-NEWSLETTERS

His Love Revealed, Welcome to Ruby, Book 2

Mountain Brook Ink, November 2020

Her Hope Discovered, Welcome to Ruby, Book 1

Mountain Brook Ink, December 2018

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Ministering to Our Readers by Patty Smith Hall

In the month since my last blog post, our world has drastically changed. Social distancing and self-isolation have become the catchphrases of the new decade, and toilet paper is a hot commodity. Stay-in-place orders confine us to our homes, leaving people stir-crazy and ready for human contact.

It’s also served as a huge confirmation for me. One of the things I’ve been praying about as I begin this indie journey was how I could love on my readers. It’s hard sometimes to connect with people we don’t know, especially when the only way we’re familiar with them is with our books. But how do we make it more personal? How do they know that they’re truly on our hearts whenever we started a new book?

Over the last few months, I’ve been looking at ways to love on my readers. Some would call it a marketing strategy and I would agree to a point, but it’s also a faith-building process too. If we’re called to love our neighbors as ourselves, shouldn’t we love our readers the same way?

It’s a scary prospect, loving someone who doesn’t know you, and I’ll be honest, I balked at the idea at first. But God worked on me, and as I heard from my readers, the need to serve them in some small way swelled up inside me.

So, what does it look like to minister to our readers between books?

First and foremost, this is where your newsletter comes into play. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I’m not a big fan of newsletters, mainly because most writers don’t come across well in them. It’s like they’re writing to someone they don’t know, and it shows. Two that do a good job at them are Rachel Hauck and Susan May Warren. Both have a way of making you feel as though they’re sitting right across the table, and I know both of these ladies well enough to say their newsletters are a reflection of who they are.

The last few weeks, I’ve been sending out newsletters once a week. People are craving relationships right now, and I wanted to reach out to them to let them know that I care. In the first one, I asked them how I could pray for them. I’ve sent them devotionals, short stories and given them one of my novellas. A small number have unsubscribed, but most have stuck with me, some have even responded with encouraging messages. I’ve discovered who my dedicated readers are as well as a new beta reader. It’s come to a point where I don’t know who’s getting more from it, them or me.

Another idea that a friend of mine gave me was having a Facebook Live prayer meeting with the folks on my newsletter list. I love the idea and it may end up with me having a ‘webinar-type’ prayer time, but I’m looking into this as well as taking prayer requests from my readers.

These are just a few ways I’m ‘loving on’ my readers right now but I’d love to hear yours. What are you doing to minister to your readers?

One of the things I’ve been praying about as I begin this indie journey was how I could love on my readers. via @pattywrites #SeriouslyWrite


Hearts in Flight

Serving her country as one of the Women's Army Special Pilots is Maggie Daniels's dearest wish. But there are obstacles to overcome above and beyond the enemies in the Pacific, including her overprotective family, skeptical fellow pilots—and handsome, distant squadron leader Wesley Hicks. Whatever it takes, Maggie will prove herself to Wesley, until she succeeds in winning his admiration…and love.

Wesley can see that Maggie's a first-class pilot. She's also too fearless by half. The war has cost Wesley so much already. Can he let go of his guilt for a chance at happiness—and can he learn to trust in God…and Maggie…enough to believe in love for a lifetime?

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. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

What Makes a Character Change? By Marie Wells Coutu

Change. We’re all dealing with it now, as our culture adjusts to staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.

No one likes change, right? But sometimes it becomes a necessity, as it has this spring, and we adjust to it.

What makes us change? And how can you use that in writing fiction?

Change comes about when the need to change is greater than the need or desire to remain the same.

The current situation is an example: No one likes wearing a mask, including me. A mask is hot, makes it harder to breathe so I get tired more easily, causes my glasses to fog up, and keeps other people from seeing my smile (I like to smile, even at strangers). But when the danger of catching this nasty virus—and possibly giving it to my loved ones—became evident, I started wearing a mask anytime I go into a store.

At first, I was one of a few with a facemask on. Now it’s rare to see anyone without one. The need for a mask became important enough to make me wear one. Change has happened (although we all hope it won’t need to be lasting change).

On a deeper level, many people have had to slow down and reevaluate their lives, perhaps focusing more on their families than on their jobs. For some, social (or physical) isolation caused them to realize the flaws in their belief in chasing the dollar. Such a change is likely to have some staying power, so they spend more time with their family even after the “stay-home” orders are lifted.

A strong fictional story also needs to have a catalyst for change that is equal to or stronger than the character’s belief at the start of the story. In a romance where the heroine has no desire to marry, she will not change her mind until a hero comes along who causes her to realize marriage to him will fulfill her greatest desire. Meeting a handsome guy is not enough—she must see the relationship as more important than her anti-marriage attitude—or than her career.

Think Sandra Bullock in The Proposal.

In a women’s fiction book, a character hiding a secret past may find healing only when she realizes not revealing the secret will result in greater pain for herself or others.

I used this catalyst in my book For Such a Moment, based on the biblical story of Esther. Just as Esther did, my heroine confesses her secret in order to save others from death. A similar example is seen in Casablanca when Rick finally realizes doing the right thing is more important than his own survival.

Review your current work-in-progress and ask yourself (or your critique partners) this question:

Is the catalyst for change stronger than my character’s status quo belief about her/himself or about the situation?

Find that catalyst and you’ll be on the way to creating believable characters and plots.

Can you think of fictional examples (both good and bad) that illustrate this principle? Please share so we can learn from each other (but for bad examples, let’s keep the details vague since we don’t want to insult other authors!).

In a women’s fiction book, a character hiding a secret past may find healing only when she realizes not revealing the secret will result in greater pain for herself or others. #amwriting #seriouslywrite #characterchange @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.