Monday, November 24, 2014

Count Your Blessings by Mary Manners

Count Your Blessings
By Mary Manners
"This is the day which the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it."
~ Psalm 118:24 ~

What are you thankful for today?
Sometimes I’m so caught up in the day-to-day bustle of writing life...juggling deadlines and outlines and stubborn characters that stray from the plotline...that I forget how very blessed I am. The holiday season is a time to reflect and to also hopefully take a moment to slow down long enough to draw a breath, step back, and count the many blessings that fill my life.

I’m thankful for my loving husband, Tim—a man with whom a share a real-life romance filled with love and laughter, adventure and fun. I often tell my husband he’s cheap entertainment since he makes me belly-laugh with regularity. Tim supports and encourages my passion for sharing the written word with others. I’m so thankful God brought him into my life.

I’m also wildly thankful for my daughter, Danni, who has grown into a beautiful young woman. Danni illuminates my life with her loving, generous spirit. She’s a loyal friend to everyone, and has a special place in her heart for the elderly and the hurting. She has never met a stray or wounded animal she didn't want to bring home and love back to health. Danni is truly a blessing to all who know her.

My friends, especially my precious writing friends, are one more reason to give thanks. These wonderful people completely understand when I elaborate on the ‘voices’ that speak to me while I’m writing. Twisted plots and story arcs make for great conversation when surrounded by those who put pen to paper. I love them dearly.

But, most of all, I am thankful for my Lord and Savior, who has given all of these blessings and more to me. What an amazing gift to know His love and grace are never-ending.

So, as this holiday season begins, I wish you blessings and peace, dear friends. May you take a moment to draw a breath, step back, and count the many blessings that fill your life.

Again, I ask...for what are YOU thankful?


Dillon Cutler has returned to Clover Cove just in time to help with the busy Christmas season at his family’s nursery. All his siblings have found love, but he has no plans to hustle to the altar...until Brynn Jansen shows up at the nursery one night searching for a fresh-cut tree and a sprig of mistletoe. Intrigued by her gentle laughter and dark-chocolate eyes he asks her out.

Brynn Jansen comes to Clover Cove to help Nana, who’s broken a hip. She has warm memories of visiting Clover Cove as a child and is especially fond of the Cutler family who brought her grandparents a Christmas tree during a tough financial time. 

Brynn has plans to pay that kindness forward. What she doesn’t plan for is falling in love with Dillon Cutler.
Mary Manners is an award-winning romance writer who lives in the beautiful foothills of East Tennessee with her husband Tim and the cherished cats they've rescued from local animal shelters...Lucky and Gus. Mary’s debut novel, Mended Heart, was a finalist for the Bookseller’s Best Award and her follow-up, Tender Mercies, was awarded a 4 ½ star rating from The Romantic Times Book Reviews. Buried Treasures was named Book of the Year by The Wordsmith Journal while Light the Fire took top honors for the Inspirational Readers Choice Award and Wisdom Tree garnered National Excellence in Romance Fiction. Mary was named Author of the Year by Book and Trailer Showcase. She writes romances of all lengths, from short stories to novels—something for everyone.
Learn more about Mary Manners at her website:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Your Writing World by Sydney Avey

Sydney Avey

How much thought have you given to the purpose of your writing? Author Sydney Avey challenges us to dig deeper into what determines our writing world with her beautiful and thought-provoking article. 
~ Dawn

Your Writing World

Settling into a folding chair in the Scottsdale Civic Center Library’s Gold Room, ready to mine the deep cave of writing genres, I listen carefully as the seminar leader points to one rich vein after another: cozy murder mysteries, political thrillers, space opera sci-fi, medieval fantasy, Viking romance, and so much more. I leaf through three pages of genres. Women’s fiction seems to have been commandeered by chick-lit. Where does my work fit?

“If it’s not on this list,” the seminar leader says, “then it’s literary fiction.” I picture a rusted train car sidetracked on a weedy railroad bed while sleek, modern, high-speed rails whizz passengers to pleasurable destinations.

I move to the auditorium to listen to a presentation on setting. “Give me three words that describe your writing world,” the presenter says. “What’s the mood and ambiance?”(Try this exercise. It will sharpen your focus on your purpose.) Hands pop up with lists like dirty, dark, and dangerous; sexy, sensual, and seductive; delicious, delightful, and delectable (did I mention that culinary mystery is a sub-genre?) I touch pen to paper and my fingers freeze. The words I hold back seem too precious, too affected.

What determines your writing world?

What engages your imagination and makes your heart beat faster?  What causes you, on a sensory level, to perceive the vital essence of your story? Is it adventure into uncharted territory? Is it fascination with otherworldly creatures and their scary intentions? Is it yearning for a relationship that promises to deliver happy-ever-after?

My writing world is character driven, stylistic, and fueled by themes and ideas. Family legends about my ancestors have invited me to think deeply about the effect of their actions on subsequent generations. Love of literature that elevates the human condition leads me to explore what motivates people to rise above difficult circumstances.

 Truth, beauty, and hope are seed stock for my stories. Truth, both gritty and great; beauty found in darkness and in light; and hope in the expectation of Psalm 27:13, “I remain confident of this; I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

Literary fiction, known as general or mainstream fiction in its lighter form, is not the sole proprietor of truth, beauty and hope. There are truthful, beautiful, and hopeful moments in many other genres. In Others of my Kind, a noir story about abuse, James Sallis explores a larger theme, the role memory plays in identity. “The past is what we are, even as we’re constantly leaving it,” his horrifically abused character says. Her redemption seems to lie in her resilience and an unselfish act, where neither was demanded of her. Grace can shine in any genre.

Our passions are as varied as the rising number of genres and subgenres. If truth, beauty and hope are part of your writing world, then grace will abide. 

A feast of family can be a plate-load of problems!

It’s the Sixties. Modernity and tradition clash as two newlywed couples set up house together. Dee and her daughter Valerie move with their husbands into a modern glass house Valerie built in a proudly rural Los Altos, California neighborhood. When their young relatives start showing up and moving in, the neighbors get suspicious. Then a body is found in the backyard and the life they are trying to build comes undone.

Father Mike is back to guide Dee through a difficult time with humor and grace, even as his own life is unraveling. Now he’s going to have to take some of his own advice about love.

A sequel to The Sheep Walker's Daughter, The Lyre and the Lambs explores the passions that draw people together and the faith it takes to overcome trauma.

Sydney Avey lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Yosemite, California, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a lifetime of experience writing news for non profits and corporations. Her work has appeared in Epiphany, Foliate Oak, Forge, American Athenaeum, Unstrung (published by Blue Guitar Magazine) and Ruminate. She has studied at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Sydney is the author of two novels, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter and The Lyre and the Lambs.  She blogs at on topics related to love and mystery, family relationships, conflicts between generations, and how faith functions in real life.

You can connect with Sydney in a number of ways:


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Writing Thankful by Heidi Chiavaroli

Heidi Chiavaroli
Two weeks ago, I thought I knew all about being thankful. I mean, I thank God every day for the blessings of my life—a home, a loving husband, two kids who make me laugh when they’re not making me pull my hair out, a warm bed, a sweet dog, and of course my salvation.

And those are good things—amazing things—to be thankful for. But why should I stop there? This past week I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. I’ve heard wonderful things about this book, but never picked it up until now.

I shouldn’t have waited.

This is not a book review, it’s a life review. My life. As I reviewed the last thirty-three years of my existence, I realized I hadn’t lived thankfulness, I hadn’t lived fully.

Voskamp claims that we unwrap joy when we give thanks. And she’s not talking about just giving thanks for the visible blessings we perceive. She’s talking about searching out thankfulness, giving thanks in the trials and situations we wouldn’t normally find thanks in.

I tried this the other day when Son #1 threw a Styrofoam ball in anger at Son #2. Instead of letting my anger—what I often perceive as righteous anger, but is really quite lacking in righteousness—take hold, I stopped. I thanked the God of the universe for these two boys who grew within me and who I love with a crazy kind of love. Then I thanked God for balls—Styrofoam or otherwise. Silly? Maybe, but the simple act of thanksgiving snuffed out the act of knee-jerk anger. I was able to deal with the situation with a bigger picture in mind. I know I won’t do this perfectly all the time. But if I could consciously remind myself to be thankful in all things, I know I would live joy.

What about writing? Too often I find myself groaning over much-sought-after results. When is the last time I was simply thankful for the ability to write? The ability to string words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into stories? What an awesome privilege to make stories out of nothing, to learn about myself and humanity in the art of a story.

For as Voskamp says, “Why doubt the dare to fully live? Now and right here. Why not let all of life be penetrated by grace, gratitude, joy? This is the only way to welcome the Kingdom of God.”

I hope this Thanksgiving is especially meaningful as you ponder what true thanksgiving is all about. I invite you to join me in writing thankful. Blessings!


Heidi Chiavaroli writes History Woven in Grace. She is a wife, mother, disciple, and grace-clinger. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and has finaled in the Genesis contest and My Book Therapy’s Frasier contest.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Memorable Characters by Gail Pallotta

Today's post from author Gail Pallotta spoke to me and had me brainstorming ways in which I could make the characters in my current project more memorable to the reader. -- Sandy

Gail: Does writing fuel the imagination, or does the imagination fuel writing?

Either way, there’s so much to create, especially in fiction. The plot, characters and setting, not to mention the hooks and raising the stakes. 

Fascinating characters breathe life into fiction. Who could forget Columbo in his baggy coat standing beside his near-wreck of a car? Or Superman, James Bond and the feisty Scarlet O’Hara. The list could go on and on. We probably all have our favorites.

More than likely there are as many different ways to create memorable characters as there are writers. Quirky habits, body language, dialogue, actions and even clothing can turn the words on the page into people we remember. A character’s emotions can add another dimension to a personality.

When one’s happy, his or her lips turn up on the corners; sad, the lips go down. Writers often use metaphors and similes to demonstrate the way a character feels inside. In a novel about a circus, a sad clown’s face might resemble rubber pulled down. Someone unhappy in that book could have tears the size of large ones drawn on the clown’s cheeks. Later in the story a happy girl or guy might flash a grin as big as one painted on a different clown’s face.

Courtesy of Photobucket – Sarge
Or perhaps a writer’s working on a young adult novel, and an overjoyed teen girl jumps up and down and claps her hands like a cheerleader. Could a disappointed young man’s countenance resemble that of a football player who dropped a pass in the end zone?

Animal expressions show emotions too. Often I read that someone looks like a lost puppy. It works on me every time. There are plenty of others, such as having someone grin as big as a horse showing its teeth. Another person may peer at something with raccoon eyes.

What do you like to use to illustrate your characters’ emotions? Also, do you think writing fuels the imagination or vice versa? 


Award-winning author Gail Pallotta’s a wife, Mom, swimmer and bargain shopper who loves God, beach Stopped Cold, finished fourth in the 16th Annual Preditors and Editors readers’ poll and was a finalist for the 2013 Grace Awards. She’s published short stories in “Splickety” magazine and Sweet Freedom with a Slice of Peach Cobbler. Some of her published articles appear in anthologies while two are in museums. Visit her web site at
sunsets and getting together with friends and family. A former regional writer of the year for American Christian Writers Association, she won Clash of the Titles in 2010. Her teen book,
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Twitter - Gail Pallotta @Hopefulwords

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sink or Publish: It’s All How You See Adversity by Zoe McCarthy

Zoe McCarthy
Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course. — William Shakespeare

For many writers, adversity means something less than illness or loss. Adversity might mean:

  • A bulging folder of rejection letters. When everyone has left for school and work, we feed the letters one-by-one into the garbage disposal, using our tears in lieu of the faucet. We shut down Scrivener on our laptop and contact Brainy Quotes to see if they could use a quote on rejection.
  • Too many low contest scores. We want to know why always two judges think our submissions stink and one judge loves them. Back to the disposal.
  • Critiques from our critique partners, bleeding red from track changes. What happened to just fixing the commas we signed on for?
  • Jabs from our spouse about changing out of our PJs before noon and doing some housework before we spend the day on our hobby. We shuffle our slippers over to the kitchen trash can and lift the lid. Humpf. When will our spouse take the trash out before he leaves to hold a pole over the lake all day?

I suggest we embrace the above difficulties and keep stroking though the waves.

Embrace Rejections.

Agent Chip MacGregor has said it takes four completed books to learn to write, and writers usually get a contract on the fifth. I was writing book five when I heard this. I kept on swimming, and my fifth book was contracted.

I know now why editors rejected those four books. But each successive book got better. My rejection letters got better too. Editors made suggestions and offered to review other projects. Today, I’d be embarrassed if those four books had been published.

Instead of destroying my garbage disposal, I believed I could do better on the next book. I attended workshops, read books on the craft, joined critique groups, and entered contests.

Embrace Contest Feedback.

After I read the feedback, I swallowed hard, and put it aside for a day. I believed the judges weren’t against me. So the next day, I made myself “listen” to each remark. I considered even the inconsistencies between judges as valuable. Would revamping or removing the sentence one judge liked and another didn’t hurt the story?

Embrace Bleeding Critiques.

The worst critiques I’ve received contained only grammar and spelling fixes. My current critique partner cares about my story. We agreed on thick skins. We became partners while I wrote published book five. My motto: If something stopped her reading, I will address what she marked.

Embrace Your Spouse.

I have a supportive husband. The only smart remark he makes is when I want something, like the round robot vacuum cleaner at COSTCO. He says, “Sell the movie rights on your book.” So, embrace your unsupportive spouse—then head for your laptop. He’ll understand better after you sign a contract.

What difficulties try to pull you under?

About the Author
Calculated Risk
by Zoe McCarthy
Zoe M. McCarthy believes the little known fact that opposites distract. Thus, she spins inspirational contemporary romances entangling extreme opposites. Her tagline is “Distraction to Attraction, Magnetic Romances Between Opposites.” Calculated Risk, Zoe’s debut novel, will be available November 21, 2014. Christian Fiction Online Magazine published two of her short stories. Zoe enjoys leading workshops on the craft of writing, speaking about her faith, planning fun events for her 5 grandchildren, and exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains, where she lives with her husband, John.


Calculated Risk
Jilted by the latest of her father’s choices of “real men,” Cisney Baldwin rashly accepts an invitation to spend Thanksgiving weekend with a sympathetic colleague and his family. Nick LeCrone is a man too much her opposite to interest her and too mild-mannered to make her overbearing father’s “list.” Now, Cisney fears Nick wants to take advantage of her vulnerable state over the holiday. Boy, is she wrong.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Walk Down Inspiration Lane by Marianne Evans

Marianne Evans
Just for fun, I thought I’d change things up a bit this month. I enjoy exploring encouraging topics, and sharing insights that help me to move forward as a happily engaged author, but this month I felt called to share something a bit more ‘visual’ in nature. I’m calling it A Walk Down Inspiration Lane, and my hope is that the images, the words and insights, might strike home and act as a motivator, because they accomplish that task on my behalf.

For example, from time-to-time I tend to fall into a pattern of thinking my life is “less” than other people’s: less meaningful, less impactful, less…everything. That’s when God delivers nudges like this:

See also:

And don’t forget:

Good stuff, huh? Have you ever experienced the tension and anxiety of watching your best laid plans going completely haywire? ::Marianne raises hand and waves::  That’s when I found this beauty:

What a relief. Then, I found this next pearl of wisdom when I contemplated the ways in which we rebound from the mistakes and battles life delivers. What a cool realization to embrace:

And speaking of challenges – how about this one?

And then there’s the Biblical pathway to life, and love. Check out these verses. They’re awesome!

Last, but certainly not least, here are a couple chuckles that truly place a fine point on the life of a writer. Who here can relate? 

Do you have any ‘pearls of insight’ you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them! Meanwhile, a happy journey to you all, keep aiming, keep praying, and keep pushing, for the God we serve is awesome indeed!

Click to Tweet!

Keep aiming, keep pushing, keep praying. The God we serve is awesome!
Ever experienced the anxiety of watching your best laid plans going haywire?

Marianne’s new series, Sisters in Spirit, is her latest release from Pelican Book Group and is the prelude to Pure Amore – a new line of subscription-only contemporary romances featuring a powerful message to Christian New Adults regarding chastity and purity. Marianne is honored to be one of the six launch authors for this new and exciting line.

You can find Sisters in Spirit right here: Sisters in Spirit at Pelican Book Group and here’s more information about Pure Amore:

Happy reading!


Marianne Evans is a multi-award-winning author of Christian romance and fiction. Her hope is to spread the faith-affirming message of God’s love through the stories He prompts her to create. Devotion, earned the Bookseller’s Best Award as well as the Heart of Excellence Award. She also earned wins for Best Romance of 2012 from the Christian Small Publisher's Association and the Selah award for best Novella of 2013. Happily married and the mother of two, Marianne is a lifelong resident of Michigan who is active in a number of a number of Romance Writers of America chapters, most notably the Greater Detroit Chapter where she served two terms as President. Connect with her at

Friday, November 14, 2014

How to Recharge When You’re Artistically Empty by Kathleen Fuller

Kathleen Fuller
It takes organization and discipline to accomplish the word counts we aspire to write each day or week. Kathleen Fuller offers encouragement for those moments when you hit the wall. ~ Dawn

How to Recharge When You’re Artistically Empty

Writing takes energy—creative, mental, and physical energy. Eventually even the most prolific writers need to recharge. But how can a busy writer find the time to refill the artistic tank when deadlines—and life in general—get in the way? Here are a few ideas that will help you increase your creativity and rejuvenate your writing.

1. Take a break. While this may seem impossible due to approaching deadlines, every writer needs some time away from the work. Choose one day during the week to not write. Don’t even think about your story, or marketing, or social media.   

2. Focus on doing something fun. On your day off, find an activity that you enjoy. Don’t spend it doing housework or paying bills or scrubbing the toilet—unless of course you consider those activities fun. Read a book, watch a movie, play a game, take a walk, or engage in one of my favorite things: napping.

3. Connect with nature. When the weather is nice, go outside. When the weather isn’t so nice, purchase a few easy to care for plants and place them in your office. Taking a few moments throughout the day to look at your plants is calming, which in turn can help the creative wheels turn.

4. Listen to music. Create a writing playlist and listen to it while you’re working. If have to write in silence, then listen to the playlist at the end of the day. Tailor it to your book’s setting, theme, or characters.

5. Write in twenty-minute spurts. Research shows that the human brain’s maximum attention span is about twenty minutes. Set a timer for twenty minutes and write. When the timer goes off, get up and do something physical. Take a five-minute walk around the house, go get the mail, do some laundry, strike a yoga pose—anything that requires physically moving the body. Then return to your writing and set the timer again. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll get accomplished and you won’t be as drained by the end of the workday. 

There are many other ways to fill the artistic well, and it’s important to find the ones that work for you. Just remember that all writers get burned out and worn out, especially when they are constantly under creative pressure. Taking care of both your mind and body can help keep that burn out at bay and will also ignite your creative spark.

(A novella collection ...)

“A Gift for Anne Marie”

Anne Marie and Nathaniel have been best friends since they were kids. Now things are evolving . . . in ways everyone else predicted long ago. But when her mother suddenly decides to remarry in another state, Anne Marie’s new chapter with Nathaniel looks doomed to end before it begins.

Kathleen Fuller is the best-selling author of over twenty-five books, including the Hearts of Middlefield series. A former special education teacher, she and her husband James are parents to three children and divide their time between Ohio and Arkansas.

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