Friday, April 17, 2015

On Divine Assignment by Pat Broomfield Bradley

Pat Broomfield Bradley

We may have our own ideas for the writing paths we want to take, but sometimes God has other plans. Sometimes, God points in a different direction—and that’s exactly what he did when he gave author Pat Broomfield Bradley her divine assignment. Enjoy!  ~ Dawn

On Divine Assignment

A childhood fascination with stories and words spurred my earliest inclinations to write. As I matured, I yearned to write what I enjoyed reading: mysteries, romance novels, and stories about funny and eccentric characters. No clue that I’d one day edit and write on divine assignment.

Praise for stories and papers I wrote in school encouraged me to believe I could author books. But subsequent and repeated rejections led to disappointment, and I didn’t have the emotional maturity to handle it. Add to that my share of life’s cruel and bombarding challenges, and a crippling depression set up camp in my spirit. Without the spiritual maturity to deal with life’s storms, my dreams vanished and my life became a total mess.

 Suddenly, Grace. After years of struggling to find my way, the darkness lifted. By Grace I came to understand JESUS is LORD and Savior. And because it was through Grace I was able to spiritually discern this, I’ve been on a God-directed path experiencing His Love, learning to trust and obey Him, and hopefully growing more in likeness to Him.        

Fast forward to a mid-life completion of a Mass Communications and Journalism degree, a two year stint writing advertorials (PR for contracted advertisers) for North Texas newspapers, and several years of writing magazine articles, and I thought I’d found my purpose again. Yet a nagging discontent, prompted by a growing faith, eventually changed my focus. In 1991, my first inspirational article was published in a Christian periodical. Since then my focus has become Christian fiction, as well as inspirational articles.

Nevertheless, as I made plans, God re-ordered my steps and orchestrated circumstances to confirm His instructions. In 2011, I sensed I was being called to write about the blessings and victory of living by faith in JESUS CHRIST. With years of life episodes to testify to this, my initial goal was to write a collection of accounts of God’s Grace in my life. But the Holy Spirit tweaked my vision. This book would be a platform through which others could share their personal encounters with God, and thereby give witness to and glorify His Abiding Presence. So for months I placed announcements on Twitter and Facebook repeatedly sent emails, sent direct mail announcements, and placed announcements in my church’s bulletin. And God blessed! He knew the hearts of those willing to glorify Him; and people I’ve never met responded.

May, 2014 under HIS SHADOW: Intimate Encounters with The Abiding Presence, As Told by Ordinary Believers was published and released on Amazon in print and Kindle version. Today I am editing the testimonies that will be included in the sequel, BUT GOD: Interventions of Grace. 

I still have fictional stories in my head that I yearn to write, and the Spirit has impressed upon me that there will be a season for them too. Right now, though, I am truly experiencing God’s faithfulness, as He leads me step by step, to fulfill this assignment. 

As Told by Ordinary Believers is an inspiring collection of true and relatable accounts from people across the country. Their testimonies give witness to the Abiding Presence of God, in the lives of believers, as they share their experiences of rescues from peril, heavenly encounters, miraculous provisions, and so much more. These impactful stories will be a revelation and encouragement to anyone who doubts. 

Pat Bradley is a Kingdom Daughter, writer, technical editor/proof reader, Bible Study Coordinator, and speaker. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications and Journalism, and has written for several North Texas newspapers and magazines.  She’s currently fulfilling an assigned mission called under HIS SHADOW: an interactive platform for inspirational articles, commentaries, and true accounts of God’s Grace, as told by other believers.  Also on docket is the first sequel, in the under HIS SHADOW series, which is scheduled for a late spring release. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, and married to a born and bred Texan, Pat and Husband are southern transplants currently living in Wisconsin.   

To learn more and connect with Pat, please visit or contact her at


Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Power of Story by Heidi Chiavaroli

Heidi Chiavaroli
Story is powerful.

I’m not the only one claiming this fact. Now, science is backing up the assertion that story has the ability to change the way we think, to change the way we even act.

At a writer’s retreat a couple years back, I listened to an inspiring presentation by author Tessa Afshar, in which she spoke of the incredible power of story. As I tried to pull together this blog post, I berated myself for not taking notes. Lucky for me a search online brought up a 2012 New York Times article by Annie Murphy Paul, in which she explores Your Brain On Fiction.

“The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated,” Paul writes.

When we read of metaphors, textures, and scents imparted to us in rich words, the same places of our brain that are stimulated when actually experiencing these things are roused when we read them. 

A powerful story can even go beyond this. The same way the brain responds to smells and textures as if we were truly experiencing them, so the brain also responds to a character’s heartaches, happiness, and frustrations as if they are our own. We can learn from make-believe characters. We can become more empathetic to those around us. We can hone our social skills simply by picking up a book.

Wow. Great news for those of us who already love a good story.

As I read this scientific evidence, I thought of the Master Storyteller. Many times, Jesus taught with a story. The Parable of the Lost Sheep certainly has a deeper impact on His listeners than if Jesus simply said, “God loves the lost with a passion you can’t imagine.”

Instead, we can see ourselves in that story—alone and afraid, and yes, as a sheep! It doesn’t matter. God made His point in this story and many others, as well as in His entire Word—one huge, beautiful story of His love for us.

So I don’t know about you, but next time I’m wrapped up in a good novel I won’t feel quite so guilty about the laundry not getting done. After all, I’m not just reading. I’m improving my social skills. I’m relishing a creation. I’m becoming a more empathetic person.          

And who can argue with the power behind that?


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, April 15, 2015

Inspiration and Creativity By Donn Taylor

Asking an author where (s)he got the idea for a certain story can open up a whole creativity can of worms. Today, Donn Taylor gives us a peek into how inspiration can work. -- Sandy

Donn: Creation remains one of human experience’s unsolved mysteries. Does the thing that has not been before come from outside (inspiration, whose root meaning is a “breathing in”)? Or does it come from within the person (creativity, the ability to make new ideas or things)? Or can it be a combination of both? We will reach no ultimate conclusions on this question today, but we can speculate on several examples.

Among these, some of the most fascinating occur when someone takes a fresh look at something others have observed for years. One afternoon in Culver City, California, in 1921, the silent film producer Hal Roach was gazing out his office window, watching children at play. Many of us have delighted in sights such as that. But to Hal Roach came the stroke of creativity: If children at play entertained him for a full quarter of an hour, why not film them to entertain moviegoers? The result was the popular series of “Our Gang” comedies that amused audiences until about 1944.

Something similar happened in 1941 to the Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral when he and his dog returned from a hunting trip. Burrs had stuck to his clothing and the dog’s hair. This had been happening to people ever since clothing, dogs, and burrs existed, but de Mestral asked what made the burrs stick. He found that burrs had tiny hooks that latched on to any kind of loop. From that discovery he developed the product we now know as Velcro.

In each of these cases the stimulus came from outside, but the creative act came from inside the observer. These and other instances lead me to believe that some external stimulus is usually required to spark the inner creative impulse.

Similar things happen to writers, one example being my poem “Married Love.” From graduate school days I had admired Renaissance art, particularly those paintings and schematics that tried to capture all possible meanings of a selected concept within one work of art. And Edmund Spenser had attempted the same kind of structure in The Fairie Queene with extended passages about the House of Pride and the House of Holiness. So I decided to try something similar with the House of Married Love, using images to suggest all the wonders of that love. But the idea would not have been complete without imaging the barrenness of counterfeits of love that lie “outside the house.” Again, the stimulus came from outside, but the creative act to develop something new came from inside.

Things like that also happen in writing novels. In my thriller The Lazarus File, I had the hero/pilot hijacked to arrange his meeting with the totally dissimilar heroine. The only use I had for the hijacker was to make that happen. He held the hero at gunpoint on the airport ramp in Medellin, demanding that he make a flight to move the heroine out of guerrilla territory. As I wrote the scene the hero naturally asked what would happen if he didn’t make the flight. Then this speech happened, totally unplanned: The hijacker looked sad and said, “"Ah, Señor…Before the Sabbath I must attend confession, and some patient Father must hear the tedious catalog of my sins. Why would you add your murder to that sordid list? You should be more considerate of the priesthood."

After that chop-logic I knew I had to get more mileage out of the hijacker. The creative act had come unbidden, but planning would be required to capitalize on it. So I had the hijacker tackle straightforward problems with outlandish Rube Goldberg schemes that somehow always worked. I had him speak in clichés that he never got quite right: “You will find the grass is greener when you are not straddling the fence.” And readers liked the character so much that I brought him back in Deadly Additive, with a son who boasted, “I am a sheep off the old black.”

In the end one doesn’t know where these ideas come from. But it seems to me that something outside provides the stimulus, and the creative impulse and craftsmanship take over from that point.

What are your ideas on the subject? Have you ever been happily writing along and discovered you've created something new you never intended (like Donn's hijacker)? Have you witnessed something that sparks an idea?


Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he earned a PhD in English literature (Renaissance) and for eighteen years taught literature at two liberal arts colleges. He was chosen by faculty as "Scholar of the Year" at one and by students as "Professor of the Year" at the other. His poetry is collected in his book Dust and Diamond: Poems of Earth and Beyond. In addition to his historical novel Lightning on a Quiet Night, he has published two suspense novels and a light-hearted mystery. He is a frequent speaker at writers’ conferences and groups. He lives near Houston, TX, where he writes fiction and poetry, as well as essays on writing, ethical issues, and U.S. foreign policy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Real Life Makes ‘Real’ Stories By Marie Wells Coutu

Marie Wells Coutu
Remember your first day at a new job? Did you have to work with someone who resented you being there, and maybe even tried to get you fired? Perhaps that person had wanted your job, or simply disliked you.

We even see this common situation in the TV series Downton Abbey. The intrigue “downstairs” among the Downton servants is not unlike what some of us have encountered in today’s business world. That’s why a similar situation found its way into my newest novel, Thirsting for More.

Bringing the biblical story of the “Woman at the Well” to life in a modern setting required that the lead character feel like an outcast. The woman whom Jesus met came to the well in the heat of the day because the “respectable” women in her village did not accept her. I recalled the uncertainties of being new on a job and realizing that a coworker felt threatened by me, and I knew many readers could relate to that situation.

Moving—several times—to new communities has also led to feeling left out. Different regions of the country have unique patterns of speech, customs, and behavior. While it’s rare these days for an entire community to ostracize a new resident, some people are unwilling to accept the newcomer who doesn’t have “history” in their town. I included that element in this story—my heroine has moved from the North to the “Deep South” city of Charleston for her new job. And prejudices against “outsiders” show up.

Remodeling and restoring old houses has long been a passion for my husband and me. Over the years, we have “fixed up” more than a dozen houses. Turning a neglected house into a “showplace” reminds us that no building is beyond saving if the foundation is solid. So I decided that my heroine would buy and restore an old house. Since old houses have their own surprises, this provided context for some additional crises that she would face.

“Actual situations are changed to protect the innocent,” as they say, but taking past events from your own life enables you to identify with your characters. I try to recall the emotions I had at the time and incorporate those into the story. It’s my hope readers will find something in that character’s situation that they, too, can identify with.

How have you incorporated your own past experiences into your novels? Were you able to recall your emotions from that time and use them to deepen your character and your story?

About the Author
Thirsting for More
by Marie Wells Coutu
Marie Wells Coutu began telling stories soon after she learned to talk. At age seven, she convinced neighborhood kids to perform a play she had written. She wrote her first book, “I Came from Venus,” in eighth grade, but studied journalism in college. After a career writing for newspapers, magazines, governments, and nonprofits, she returned to her first love—writing fiction—at the age of fifty-five. For Such a Moment, winner of the Books of Hope contest, is her debut novel. Recently retired from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, she and her husband now divide their time between Florida and Iowa, where they can be closer to their two children and three (soon to be four) grandchildren.

Thirsting for More
... she closed her eyes to this real-life nightmare.

The whole city of Charleston seems to be watching, waiting for Northern transplant and recently hired director of tourism, Victoria Russo, to either work a miracle or to stumble and fall. But she hadn't expected the cold reception and the deception she's experiencing, especially from her assistant director.

The change of geography is a chance for multi-divorced Victoria to start a new life. Hoping to gain acceptance, she purchases and tackles the renovation of an historic home, but soon falls back into her old ways.

In this modern-day version of the woman at the well, will Victoria find the one friendship that can change her world or will she return to the place where her past failures lurk around every turn and keep her thirsting for something--or Someone--she cannot find?

Print: ISBN-13:978-1-938092-80-0, Digital: ISBN-13: 978-1-938092-81-7

Monday, April 13, 2015

Saddle Up! Let's Ride!

Cooking up an antiquated western is easy!
Peter Leavell

First, grab a mixing bowl—we call it The West. Throw in a trusty horse and a cowboy with a white ten-gallon hat. Next, add spice—a gorgeous female in distress who wants a cowboy to take her to a ranch, where she'll have babies and keep the house clean for him. To add a bitter flavor, pour in a thin-lipped villain in black. Mix well. Dollop scenes in sequential order and bake in the Arizona desert until burnt. Serve with a side of angry Indian, a crusty gold miner looking for the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, and beans.

Gone (we hope) are the days of formula westerns. So why do numbers say westerns are making a comeback? Because new westerns have qualities the enduring American West novels embraced.

High stakes keep readers turning the page. Losing a few head of cattle (when the stakes are steaks) won't keep the reader’s interested. If lives of many are troubled by the fight between the hero and villain, the more interesting. Granted, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry is a cattle drive. But an entire way of life is at stake.

Photo use by permission. Laura Harkins
Give the girl a gun, please. Helpless damsels in distress are no longer in fashion, unless it's simply a person rendered defenseless  Historically, women in the west were cast-iron. Charles Portis wrote True Grit’s Mattie Ross as the toughest person in the novel, with more sand than even the meanest marshal she could find. She’s just awesome.

Embrace Ethnicity. Many of the famous western writers loved the Native American’s way of life and portrayed their point of view. Some included the Chinese, African American, Mexican, and countless others. Movies, however, needed faceless villains. The plot lines wreaked havoc on minorities. I’m thinking of the stagecoach chase scenes with feathered and painted Caucasian stuntmen galloping on horseback, only to be slaughtered by bouncing riders with small Winchesters. In today's westerns, everyone’s point of view matters.

No person is perfect. Even heroes and heroines suffer from limitations. Giving them a fault or a medical condition makes them more believable. Jubal, in Louis L’Amour’s Jubal Sackett, seems to suffer from ADHD and possibly a mild hyperkinetic disorder. But yet, he finds a place where he can be himself and discover love.

These tips and more are played out in my western West for the Black Hills, out now!
Peter Leavell is an award winning historical fiction author. He and his family research together, creating magnificent adventures. Catch up with him on his website at, or friend him on Facebook: Peter R. Leavell. 
Out Now!
Philip Anderson keeps his past close to the vest. Haunted by the murder of his parents as they traveled West in their covered wagon, his many unanswered questions about that night still torment him. 
His only desire is to live quietly on his homestead and raise horses. He meets Anna, a beautiful young woman with secrets of her own. Falling in love was not part of his plan. Can Philip tell her how he feels before it’s too late?
With Anna a pawn in the corrupt schemes brewing in the nearby Dakota town, Philip is forced to become a reluctant gunslinger. Will Philip’s uncannily trained horses and unsurpassed sharpshooting skills help him free Anna and find out what really happened to his family in the wilderness?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Writers & Community: You Are Not Alone! by Victoria Bylin

Victoria Bylin

Since writing is not often a team activity, it has the potential to feel like a lonely profession. But Victoria Bylin reminds us that writers have a lot in common. After enjoying her words here, you may also want to check out Victoria’s article “How to Write a Novella,” shared on a previous Seriously Write post. ~ Dawn

Writers & Community: You Are Not Alone!

“You must be a writer.”

My best friend and I say that to each other all the time. She’s an amazing author and I love her to pieces. Whenever one of us comes up with a unique phrase or a play on words, the other one pops up with the longstanding joke. It’s a blessing to share that kind of fun. Not everyone understands what it’s like to live with words constantly demanding attention.

But another writer does. What we do is unique. How many of us have had the experience of being at a social gathering and having someone say, “So what do you do?” When I say I’m an author, this is what often happens:

The person tips her head.

Her mouth opens.

Her mouth closes.

Her eyes widen.

Then she says, “Oh.”

If she’s a reader, she says, “OH!” But if she’s not, it takes her a while to process the information. This doesn’t happen when I tell people I work part-time in a doctor’s office. In that context, they know me instantly. I’m the woman behind the counter asking for their co-pay and insurance card. But a writer? What does a writer do?

For starters, I get up 4:30 in the morning. It’s my most creative time of the day. That’s the sort of thing only a fellow writer or artist will understand. Do I miss my sleep? Yes, definitely. Is it worth it? You bet!

Another thing that sets writers apart is how we play with words. Here are some of the ways I diddle around with a ms, tweaking it to make it the best it can be.

—My first drafts tend to be full of my favorite phrases, so I use MS Word to count how many times I use a particular expression. “She lifted her chin” just might be the number one offender.  Then there’s nodded and gazed. And how about shrugged? Hunting those little darlings down is a game of sorts. I go after adverbs too.

—When I get stuck on a scene, I change the font from Times New Roman to something unconventional. Papyrus, anyone? Right now I’m using Perpetua. It seems silly, but the visual change kicks loose my creativity.

—I talk to myself while I write. Fortunately, my husband understands. There’s something about hearing the words that brings out subtle rhythms. This is especially true with dialogue.

Those are a few of my writing quirks. How about you? Do you play with words just for fun?  Any particular writing tips or unusual habits? One of the greatest benefits to social media is belonging to a community of writers. Quirky or not, we aren’t alone! 

Sometimes the most unexpected love can be exactly what a heart needs...

When a Lost Child warning blares over the mall's PA system, Carly Mason finds the little girl playing with a stuffed rabbit. Something about Penny Tremaine is different. An ex-social worker, Carly recognizes that the child suffers fetal alcohol effects, and a piece of Carly's past suddenly confronts her. Never again will she become personally involved with a client. The risks are far too great. But something about Penny--and Penny's handsome father--tugs at Carly's heart.

Dr. Ryan Tremaine is trying to put his life back together. With his ex-wife remarried and on a trip far away, his two teenage sons and Penny are living under his roof full time. Ryan has put his faith in his Sink-or-Swim list, a plan to reconnect with his children. The first step: recruit Carly Mason to be Penny's nanny.

Ryan never anticipated being so drawn to Carly, an attraction Carly seems to fight as much as he does. Could Carly be the missing piece that helps his family stay afloat, or will their blossoming romance only complicate things further?

Victoria Bylin is a romance writer known for her realistic and relatable characters. Her books have finaled in multiple contests, including the Carol Awards, the RITAs, and RT Magazine's Reviewers Choice Award. A native of California, she and her husband now make their home in Lexington, Kentucky, where their family and their crazy Jack Russell terrier keep them on the go. Learn more at


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Writing on a Schedule by Terri Weldon

Terri Weldon
Raise your hand if you write on a schedule? Sitting out here in cyber land it is hard to tell if I’m the only person with both hands firmly in lap. While it is embarrassing, I hope I am. That would mean each of you is more disciplined than me.

Even though I struggle with being disciplined, I refuse to give up. After all, there are over thirty verses in the Bible concerning the subject, several in Proverbs. When I read – Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. – Proverbs 12:1 ESV, I thought ouch! Not only do I need to be more disciplined, but now I need to realize that all those tough critiques and rejections are things I shouldn’t hate.  And it is all too true. Nothing is worse than scrambling around trying to finish a project at the last minute. I won’t presume to speak for you, but when I’m in scramble mode I’m not turning in my best work. Plus it is very stressful and I end up feeling like I’ve failed before I’ve even hit send.
So this year I’m not blazing any trails, and I still struggle with lack of discipline, but I’m determined to work through the issue. I can either give up and throw the towel in or keep working to overcome. I believe God has created us to be overcomers. He’s already equipped me for the journey, now I just need to utilize the tools He has given me.
What about you? Are you writing on a schedule? Have you overcome self-discipline and procrastination problems? I hope you’ll take a few minutes to share with me how you’ve managed to be an overcomer. If you haven’t, share that as well. Either way, maybe we can all learn from each other.
Purchase Link
Misty Winslow is determined to find her prince, and she meets the man of her dreams through an Internet dating service. Or is he, because the new dentist in town also sets her heart aflutter.

It's love at first sight for Tyler Davenport, but before he can finish his first root canal, Misty is involved in an exclusive online romance with Wes99—Tyler’s online persona. How can he tell her he’s the man she’s been waiting to meet, and how rational is it for him to be jealous of Wes99! Soon Tyler's pulling out all the stops to woo Misty.

As Christmas approaches, Wes99 and Tyler both ask her to meet them under the mistletoe. Which man will she choose?

Terri is a lead analyst by day and an author by night. She enjoys gardening, reading, and playing in the hand bell choir. One of her favorite pastimes is volunteering as the librarian at her church. It allows her to shop for books and spend someone else’s money! Plus, she has the great joy of introducing people to Christian fiction.

She lives with her family in Oklahoma. Terri has three dogs – a lovable mutt and two adorable Westies.

Terri is a member of ACFW and OCFW, a local chapter of ACFW. Her dream of becoming a published novelist came true in November 2013 when Mistletoe Magic, released from White Rose Publishing. To learn more about Terri visit her website at