Friday, December 19, 2014

The Angst Project by Stephanie Prichard

Stephanie Prichard

Do you allow distractions to keep you from writing? Oh, I hate to admit it, but I’m guilty! However, there’s hope for overcoming hindrances to productivity. Give some thought to author Stephanie Prichard’s  encouraging tips and consider starting your own Angst Project. ~ Dawn

The Angst Project

My book club is reading The Happiness Project, in which the author journals her month-by-month progress in nailing down attitudes and habits that will give her a better appreciation for the happiness she already has. You know, a beautiful house … but it’s cluttered. A wonderful husband … but she nags him. Good health … but she’s always tired. And so on.

I’m only a few chapters in, but I’m salivating over her to-do lists and am tempted to carbon copy her journey. My book club mates, however, are muttering vague, disparaging remarks, and their chins are drool dry. Since I’m not as far along in the book as they are, I figure either the author goes where no sane woman would dare to go, or my mates simply aren’t devout to-do-listers. Whatever, I know better than to get caught up. I’m a good beginner but a poor continuer. Every month I throw away my to-do list and start over.

Nevertheless, I like the concept of dealing with obstacles that are … well, foolish. Foolish that they’re hindrances, foolish that I allow them, foolish that they even exist in the first place. In particular, I’m thinking of why I let myself get distracted from writing. Last week I had two whole days—TWO WHOLE DAYS!—free to write, with no one and nothing to divert my attention. And what did I do? Yep, wasted time with distractions.

So I did a bit of analysis and came up with the fact that I let myself get distracted because I’m anxious. Is my writing good enough? Will I show not tell? Get the scene goal expressed? Tilt the tension up? Draw the reader in? Avoid my fave expressions? Get my MRUs straight? Reach a dark moment? Remember to have a sequel?

The more I learn about writing, the more my angst increases.

Remember when writing used to be fun?

But I can’t go back. I don’t want to go back. I actually do love making progress, painful as it is.

So I’ve started my own little project. The Angst Project. What attitudes and actions will help reduce my anxiety and up my productivity? So far I’ve come up with five.

1. Work on more than one writing project at a time to spread the angst and ideally decrease it.

2. Allot a minimum of an hour to each project.

3. Feel free to jump back and forth between projects.

4. If a project starts to roll, go for it!

5. Have a planned, profitable distraction ready to go (laundry, a few     bills to write, a sink full of dirty dishes—something good that needs to get done, but that I’m glad to set aside as soon as I can).

So, I’m curious … do you know what causes you angst? And what to do about it?

All Marine Corps reservist Jake Chalmers wants is to give his dying wife a last, romantic cruise to the Philippines. Unable to save her in a mass murder aboard ship, he washes ashore a jungle island, where he discovers three other survivors. Heartbroken that he failed to save his wife, he is determined not to fail these helpless castaways.

Federal prosecutor Eve Eriksson rescues a young girl and her elderly great-aunt from the same ship. They badly need Jake's survival skills, but why is he so maddeningly careful? She needs to hurry home to nail a significant career trial. And, please, before Jake learns her secret that she's responsible for his wife's death.

Stranded: A Novel is available for only $2.99 at  

Stephanie is an army brat who lived in many countries around the world and loved it. She met her husband at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where she majored in English/Literature. She and Don have lived in Indianapolis, IN, for forty years, and in retirement have turned to co-authoring novels now that their three children are busy raising a beautiful crop of grandchildren for them.

You can learn more and connect with Stephanie here:

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

What’s My Worth? by Heidi Chiavaroli

Heidi Chiavaroli
I suppose like many, I struggle with proving my own worth. My worth as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a follower of Christ…and as a writer.

Concerning the latter, I had convinced myself that if only I could secure a reputable agent, the search for validation would be over. If someone in this business was convinced I had what it took to make it as an author, then bam. I’d need no other encouragement. I could soar—forever perhaps—on this one person’s belief of my worth.

Strange, but I should have recognized the falsehood of this thinking after I won ACFW’s Genesis contest in the Historical Category. For hadn’t I told myself many times that if only I could final or win a prestigious contest (such as this one!) I’d be validated as a writer?

Oh, how quickly I forget.

Last month, it was my extreme pleasure to sign with agent Susan Brower of the Natasha Kern Literary Agency.

So there. I did it. I should feel validated as a writer. And for about three days I did. No one could bring me down or convince me otherwise. If Susan Brower liked my book, then who cared what anyone else thought.


As I printed out my manuscript to give to an important beta reader, doubts about my worth as a writer poked hard once again. What if she didn’t like it? What if she said she hated my writing and my book?

That’s when I realized my doubts would always be there. I could gain a multi-book contract…and they’d still be there. I could win a handful of awards…and they’d still be there. I could make it to a bestseller list…and they’d still be there.

And the reality is, there will always be someone who will not like my writing, or my books. There will always be someone who thinks my books are not spiritual enough, someone who thinks my books are too spiritual. Someone who doesn’t like my characters or my plots or how I string three words together.

So what’s a writer to do?

What I always have to remind myself to do—preach the gospel to myself. I can’t root my worth in my writing. Or being a good mother, wife, or daughter. I can’t even base my worth on being a good follower of Jesus because I will always fall short there as well.

What I can do is base my worth in Jesus himself, and all He has already done for me. This Christmas season I can remember that Christ was born to make me worthy. He died to make me worthy. And today, He still lives to make me worthy.

“Christmas highlights the inescapable fact that no matter how hard we try, we can’t do it. Apart from the Incarnation we are left to our own bankrupt resources. But at the same time it shows us Jesus, who came to liberate us from the pressure of having to fix ourselves (and others!), find ourselves, and free ourselves. He came to relieve us of the burden we inherently feel “to get it done” and make it on our own. He came to set us free from the need to secure for ourselves the affection and approval we long for but cannot attain.”
~Tullian TchividjianChristmas for the Weary and Heavy-Laden

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, December 17, 2014

Nurturing Creativity by Martha Rogers

Have you fallen into a rut in your writing? One of my mental notes for my current WIP is to freshen up my emotional descriptions when rewriting. Today, Martha Rogers talks about the importance of not falling into that rut and suggests ways we can nurture our creativity. 
-- Sandy

Martha: I love a good story, but recently I have read two good stories by a multi-published author that left me shaking my head. If the story hadn't been good, I would have tossed the book aside. Things like head-hopping or changing point of view within a scene with no warning and beginning sentences with words that end with -ing had me pausing all the time and shaking my head. I had to go back a few times to figure out how and why the POV changed.

We've heard it said so many times that the story is most important. In the case of this author, she did all the things to make her readers keep the pages turning even though she didn't follow all the "rules" of writing. This was one of those stories that if I had been grading it as I did the papers of my college students, it would have earned an A for content and a D- for mechanics.

I have found the head hopping, poor sentence construction, and grammatical mistakes more prevalent in self-pubbed books, but it can happen to those from a recognized publisher also. I'm not sure why this is because editors should catch those things. The editor for the publisher of the book described didn't catch them.

Perhaps multi-published writers can get by with this type of writing as long as their story and characters are good and the readers like the author. However, we are creative writers of fiction and our writing should reflect that creativity.

When we fall into a rut of writing the same way all the time without taking time to learn from others and to improve writing skills, we can find our books falling into the pile of those that cause a reader to lose interest.

How can we nurture that creativity? I find that by visiting unusual places, people watching at airports, doctor offices, grocery stores, and lines at the mall stores, bank or wherever we are, I can come up with unusual characters, traits, and scenarios for different plots. For historical, I love to visit places like Mount Vernon and Williamsburg or Boston. For my latest series, I spent a lot of time in St. Francisville, Louisiana to gather information and ideas.

We live in a world of cyber-space where banking and shopping are more frequently on-line. As writers, we need to be “out in the world” more observing and listening to what is going on around us. It’s amazing how character traits, conversation tidbits, or facial expressions can make their way into our writing when we truly pay attention to our surroundings. So, get out of the house a few hours a week and see what people are doing, what they are saying, and how they are acting or reacting to situations. 

What is a way in which you consciously improve your writing? How do you go about freshening your prose and studying the "rules?"


Because of what happened to her father and mother during the War Between the States, Molly Whiteman
hates guns, violence and war. Stefan Elliot is an officer in the U.S. Cavalry. When the two meet, sparks fly in their attraction to each other. Stefan returns to his regiment leaving Molly torn between her love for him and her deep feelings about guns and killing. Tragedy changes Molly’s heart and brings them back together, but will Molly's love be enough to overcome the depression that has made Stefan a recluse from society?

Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and was named Writer of the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009 and writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston where they enjoy spending time with their grandchildren.  A former English and Home Economics teacher, Martha loves to cook and experimenting with recipes and loves scrapbooking when she has time. She has written three series, Winds Across the Prairie and Seasons of the Heart and The Homeward Journey. Book three in that series, Love Never Fails, released in November, 2014.

Find Martha at:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

An Ode to the Senior Class of MacArthur High School By Gina Welborn (c. 1988)

Gina Welborn
Like dirt in the wind
knowing that one day they will be sucked in the great vacuum cleaner of life.

Like dirt in the wind
striving to leave the oneness of themselves and unify with others to become one large dirtball.

Are you a dirtball? How many times do you “leave the oneness” of yourself to become just like your friends or celebrities or other writers out there?

“A true breakout is not an imitation but a break-through to a more profound individual expression. It demands that an author reach deep inside to find what is truthful, original, important and inspiring in his own world view.” ~Donald Maass, WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL defines worldview as “the way s/he sees the world and his/her place in it. In includes the person's beliefs about how things are done and by whom, what is good and bad, why things happen as they do, and who holds the reins of power. It also includes the group or groups to which a person belongs or with which s/he identifies.” Your worldview may contradict the mainstream, follow the mainstream, agree with the majority, agree with the minority, may be liberal, conservative, narrow-minded, open-minded, no minded. Everyone has a worldview. Everyone has a voice.

A good writer learns to hone her “voice.” How?

READ POETRY. Samuel Taylor Coleridge once said, “Prose consists of words in their best order. Poetry consists of the best words in the best order.” Reading poetry will cause you to become more aware of the dynamos of the correct word choice. Poetry helps you learn to hear grammatical rhythm.

READ MORE OUTSIDE YOUR GENRE THAN IN. What goes in, come out. If most of what you are reading is the genre you are writing, then you will end up regurgi-writing what you read. My two current voice-sharpeners are Let’s Be Brave by Annie Downs and Girl Meets God by Laura Winner.

PUT YOU IN YOUR STORY. Maass writes, “It is from the unknowable shadows of your subconscious that your stories will find their drive and from which they will draw their meaning. No one can loan you that or teach you that.” If a scene, chapter, story, character, scares you to write it, write it.

Publishers want something different. Publishers want something they can sell. That can seem dichotomy. What makes it not is You the Writer. Hone your voice. The world already has a ___(fill in name of your favorite author)___.

It’s just wanting...waiting...hoping for a you.
About the Author
Gina Welborn is the author of three Barbour novellas, including one in the ECPA-bestselling Mistletoe Memories, and is contracted for two more. The year 2014 ushers in the release of her novels: The Heiress's Courtship, The Marshal's Pursuit, and Masterpiece Marriage. A moderately obsessive fan of CommunityOnce Upon a Time, and Chopped, Gina lives in Oklahoma with her pastor husband, their five Okie-Hokie children, a box-lab, two rabbits, four guinea pigs, and a fancy Russian dwarf hamster named Tom Bob Deucalion. She is represented by the Steve Laube Agency. To learn more about her writing or read excerpts, visit her website:

Masterpiece Marriage

Mary Varrs prefers botany to romance.

She thinks studying the growth pattern of her tomato seedlings is more time-worthy than pursuing a mate. When she needs illustrations of her prized plants, Mary turns to Priscilla Dane Osbourne for help.

Zenus Dane also seeks help from his Aunt Priscilla. In order to salvage his flooded textile mill, he wants to sell her hand drawn quilt patterns alongside his repurposed fabric scraps. No quilter had national name recognition like his aunt, but Priscilla is fiercely protective of her patterns. Convincing her would not be easy.

It seems Priscilla is the answer to both their prayers. But Priscilla would rather weave a masterpiece marriage for her nephew than save his flooded business. Trouble is, her plans don’t include Mary, whose own growing attraction for the textiler could jeopardize Priscilla’s good will toward her. If faced with a decision between love and ambition, will Mary be able to choose?

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Heaping Helping of Spirit

Marianne Evans
Recently my publisher, Pelican Book Group, launched a most encouraging Christmas campaign via Twitter, and I can’t wait to share it with you.  Editor in Chief Nicola Martinez encouraged PBG authors to share uplifting quotes, post them, re-tweet them, and give a boost to those who are struggling during this emotionally charged and very busy season.

While I prayed for discernment, while I scoured the Internet and Bible for hope-filled quotes, I considered what an enormous mission field we face at the moment. Our world, at the surface level, seems so devoid of Christ’s light and hope. I strive to make it part of my job as a Christian writer, as a missionary and disciple, to let modern culture know that God’s love and joy endures, that Christ lives and breathes in the actions of each one of us. All the same, I become overwhelmed. I cry out in a desert and wish for calm, peace, a ramp-up of simple joy. Even though I know the truth of Christ’s providence, I find it easy to become lost in the stress and bustle of the holidays. It’s then that I pull back, focus within, and try hard 
to remember who I belong to, and what exactly it is I’m celebrating…and honoring. Christmas isn’t just about a birth. It’s a promise. A bridge. It’s redemption and the purest love mankind will ever know resting in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes.

 I hope this social media exchange provides meaning and light in the face of darkness. Do you crave a heaping helping of Spirit? Log on to Twitter and check out #NeverGiveUp and #HaveFaith.

If you face challenges that leave you struggling this Christmas season, always remember—in the words of Matthew West—“You are a child of the One True King.”

‘I have set the Lord continually before me;
He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.’
~ Psalm 16:8 ~

 Click to Tweet!

In the rush and bustle of the season, remember: You’re a child of the One True King


Jackson Merritt's first night in London has concluded with an unexpected bang. Acting on instinct, he steps into the midst of an attempted theft that leads him into the life, and heart of Vanessa Colby.
A personal shopper at the world-famous Harrods, Vanessa wants only to savor the start of the Christmas season. She's not looking for love, but after being rescued from harm by Jackson, she finds herself falling fast and hard for the handsome American who heads North American operations for her family's IT firm. 
But a woman from Jackson’s past shows up in London as well—and if she can’t win him back, she’s bent on destroying his career, and any future happiness with Vanessa.
As truths play out, as emotions are faced and reconciled, Jackson and Vanessa must confront the ideas of reformation, forgiveness, and finding a way to love…even in the darkest circumstances.


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, December 12, 2014

When God Makes Your Hobby Your Job by Jodie Bailey

Jodie Bailey
Do you think of writing as something creative or therapeutic to do when you have the time? Or do you view it as a calling and a job? Jodie Bailey shares what happened when God confronted her on the place he wanted writing to have in her life.  ~ Dawn

When God Makes Your Hobby Your Job

I was reading a friend’s blog yesterday. She was actually my daughter’s kindergarten teacher, and we bonded, though I’m pretty sure her high school memories lean more toward the Backstreet Boys than New Kids on the Block. You hear what I’m saying?  (Hint: I’m old.) 

At any rate, we share a bit when it comes to writing. See, I spent my whole life writing for fun until, one day, God whacked me over the head and said, “I gave you a gift.  What exactly do you plan to do with it?” Hm. Good question. 

She’s facing the same thing. I can remember her, YEARS ago, saying to me, “I’m not a writer.” And yet… she kept putting words on paper. I’d have told you the same thing. “I’m not a writer. I just like telling stories.” So deep in denial was I that, when God told me to make this a career, I tried to write Bible studies. I struggled for a year until a friend said, “I was praying for you, and God said to write about a real person.” I immediately thought, “God wants me to write about Eleanor Roosevelt?” (Why I thought her by default, I have no idea. Just goes to show how my brain works. It should scare you.)  Then I realized He wanted me to tell my faith story… through someone else. The instant I turned to my first love of fiction and started forming a character, the words that hadn’t come for an entire year flowed. Two books in under six months.

And then I got an agent. And this became work. Guess what? Writing for fun is not the same as writing for work. It’s not the same at ALL. Writing for fun is an outlet. Writing for work can make you cry. Like, real tears. 

The truth is, there are days when I pout and whine and try to bargain with God. “I’ll feed rabid alligators if you’ll let me out of writing this book.” (That’s my default ugly job.) But He tells me no. And those days happen less frequently as I follow His lead.  I have found that when I start my day asking Him to guide my fingers on the keyboard, it goes a whole lot better than when I try to go it alone. 

But here’s the thing…  When God makes your hobby your job, well, you’d better find another hobby so you have something to do for fun.

Oh, writing is fun. I love it. It’s the core of who I am, and to stop doing it would be to deny myself. But realize… when God calls you, Satan sometimes tries to answer. You will meet resistance, even from yourself. But that’s okay. That’s when you know you’re right where you’re supposed to be, doing what God called you to do. Then, even on those days when the words are a chore, you walk away fulfilled and yes, maybe even shedding happy tears.

When Taryn’s grandmother faces a medical crisis, she asks Taryn to sew an heirloom quilt for her cousin’s wedding.  Taryn is forced to accept the help of Justin Callahan, the man she once loved.  The problem is, Taryn still loves him, but she has a secret that will drive him away forever.

Jodie Bailey writes novels about freedom and the heroes who fight for it. Her novels include Freefall and Crossfire, from Love Inspired Suspense, as well as Quilted by Christmas, from Abingdon Press. Her devotions have appeared in Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home and Sweet Freedom with a Slice of Peach Cobbler. She is convinced a camping trip to the beach with her family, a good cup of coffee, and a great book can cure all ills. Jodie lives in North Carolina with her husband, her daughter, and two dogs.

To learn more and connect with Jodie, please visit