Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Writer's Block Breakers by Jennifer Hallmark

Do you ever have those writing times when you get so stuck for words you go into a trance while staring at the computer? I went through this recently. Today, Jennifer Hallmark offers some tips to snap us out that trance-like state. -- Sandy

Jennifer: I love to create. Penning my characters, the setting, and their joys and sorrows is pure enjoyment and therapeutic to my soul. Occasionally, however, I get stuck. I pull up the file of my latest novel, stare blankly at the page in front of me, then pull up Pinterest and start pinning cute basset hounds. Has this ever happened to you?

One way I’ve found helpful in breaking the grip of writer’s block is to create. Not characters or settings, but exploring the other aspects of my creativity. All writers have this. A writer is imaginative and imagination doesn’t begin and end with the written word.

What do you like to do as a hobby? To relieve stress? You can turn your hobby or stress reliever into a writer’s block breaker. And it can be as simple as stopping to bake a cake. Yes, you heard me write, pun intended.

When the words won’t flow, step away from the computer. Do something creative. Here are twenty suggestions to get you started.

  1. Cook.
  2. Bake.
  3. Sew.
  4. Knit.
  5. Crochet.
  6. Decorate a space.
  7. Rearrange furniture.
  8. Paint.
  9. Doodle.
  10. Shop.
  11. Pot a flower.
  12. Make a collage.
  13. Arrange a vase of flowers.
  14. Fix your hair and apply makeup.
  15. Start a new photo album.
  16. Work on a jigsaw puzzle.
  17. Photograph a pet, scenery, or a child.
  18. Scrapbook.
  19. Play an instrument.
  20. Sing.

But what if you’re on a deadline? It still works. Take thirty minutes and one of the above activities. You’ll enlarge the artistic side of your brain and when you sit back down, ideas should flow. At times, it might take a few hours or a day to kick start your imagination, but it will be worth it.

Who knows? While you’re scrapbooking or painting, you might create a scene right there with your main character who is struggling. Just like you. And you’ll both emerge winners at the end…

What do you do to get the words to flow? 


Jennifer Hallmark: writer by nature, artist at heart, and daughter of God by His grace. She loves to read detective fiction from the Golden Age, watch movies like LOTR, and play with her two precious granddaughters. At times, she writes. Jennifer and her husband, Danny, have spent their married life in Alabama and have a basset hound, Max.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Diversifying Your Writing Career by Vannetta Chapman

Vannetta Chapman
There's a lot of talk recently about self- and indie publishing. I've even read an article in RWR (magazine for Romance Writers of America) about it. I'm thrilled to have Vannetta Chapman today as she shares how she's diversifying her brand and markets. ~ Angie

Thanks for having me on your blog!

I’d love to tell you about my new release, HIDDEN, but before I do how about I tell you when I wrote HIDDEN? You might be surprised! I wrote the first draft of it in 2009. Wowzer. That was 5 years ago. I had an agent at the time, but we had not sold a book yet. I loved this story—loved it so much that I wrote book 2, which we also didn’t sell. We’d get to pub committee, and they’d say “no!” every time. I don’t know why. I think romantic suspense was waning in 2009.

So my agent asked me to write Amish and I did. Since then I’ve published Amish romance novels, Amish murder mysteries, Amish novellas, Amish short stories – yeah, a lot of Amish. And it’s been fun! I’ve published 10 books, with my first being A Simple Amish Christmas in 2010. I like to say that I can write whatever a publisher needs – as long as I get to pick the characters. The story is ALL about characters for me.

I have 6 more books coming out in the next 2 years, but my mind kept going back to HIDDEN. I really liked this story. I like the characters and the pace. I like the action! So my agent again submitted it. We heard a lot of “maybe she can’t be successful outside the Amish genre.” We heard a lot of “no!” One smaller publisher offered us a contract, but I decided to pass and publish it independently. I wanted to try that side of things. I wanted to set the price where readers could afford it ($3.99 ebook).

I like being a “hybrid” author. I enjoy publishing books on my own, and I enjoy working with publishers. For me it’s not an “either/or” question – it’s a matter of coordinating the two different styles of publishing.

So what about you? Have you faced discouragement but sauntered on? Writing is all about perseverance, and my prayer is that you will persevere in your dream to be published and share your story.

by Vannetta Chapman
Vannetta Chapman writes inspirational fiction full of grace. Her novel, Falling to Pieces, was a 2012 ACFW Carol Award winner for best mystery. She writes Amish mysteries for Zondervan, Amish romances for Harvest House and Amish novellas for Abingdon and Zondervan. All of her books have been Christian Book Distributor bestsellers. Her first self-published book is an inspirational romantic suspense titled Hidden. Chapman lives in the Texas hill country with her husband.

DANA JACOBS is supervisor in charge of the Department of Homeland Security in Taos, New Mexico. BENJAMIN MARSHALL is newly assigned to Dana’s office. Straight from a six year military deployment, he is not what Dana wants or needs. Ben knows God has a reason for putting him in this place at this time—to help Dana. When a local school is threatened, they open a case which leads them on a chase through the Enchanted Circle and Carson National Forest, pursuing a man filled with a bitterness Dana can understand. But her anger is different. It’s justified, it remains hidden inside, and it hurts no one. Can Dana face her own mortality? And when she does, can she truly understand what it means to forgive and to be forgiven?


Monday, October 20, 2014

The Writing Marathon...Got What it Takes??

Marianne Evans
My son just ran and completed his first marathon! I’m such a proud mama. Like his father before him, he trained, he became educated on the sport and its processes, and he committed himself to a regimen that leaves me in awe. What a kiddo!

His accomplishment, coupled with the upcoming kick-off of NaNoWriMo, made me think about marathoning in terms of my own writer life.


In the past year and a half, I have written a four-book series of novellas, two short contemporary romances, and a women’s fiction novel. Whew. The process was…and has been…daunting at times. It’s a marathon. Unwilling to sacrifice quality, I continually train myself in the craft and strive to become educated so the manuscripts I turn in are the best they can be and as polished as possible. After all, publication is a marathon exercise for editors as well.

Producing multiple books, on a deadline, takes knowledge of the entire publication process. It takes commitment. Backside in the chair, fingers to keyboard, head and heart buried deep within the pages of my WIP. There are days, sure, when the last thing I feel like doing is booting up the computer and crafting the next scene, the next chapter, the next conflict. In marathon terms, that’s called ‘hitting the wall.’

That’s when an amazing transformation occurs—I find if I power through and stick with it, I will find myself engulfed by the story God is giving me to tell. Easy? No. Frustrating? At times, you bet. Rewarding? To the highest power.

Finally, there’s commitment to the regimen. I can't allow myself to just dream of writing. I have to sit down and do it. I can’t let myself be afraid of the learning curves and the hard work; both are on-going processes as I write. That’s when I force myself to remember a wise bit of advice I paraphrase from the one-and-only Nora Roberts: “The only thing you can’t edit is a blank page.”

What’s your battle? What ‘wall’ do you hit as a writer? Let’s compare notes. I’m praying for you, friends, and cheering you on. In the end, I hope you take on the challenges before you and discover the surprising truth that the ‘marathon’ is well worth the effort.

Click to Tweet!!

"The only thing you can't edit is a blank page."


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, October 17, 2014

My Stubborn First Novel by Amanda G. Stevens

Amanda G. Stevens

Have you ever written a story or had an idea for one that just wouldn’t release its hold on you? Have you ever been discouraged because someone thought you should toss aside the story of your heart? Read on! Author Amanda G. Stevens shares her experience and offers encouragement. ~ Dawn

My Stubborn 
First Novel

Since before I could read, story has been my deepest love—universal magic, the people I create weaving threads of connection to people I’ve never met. I write because I love my characters and want others to love them, too. Along the way, I want to be honest—about the darkness of the world we live in and about the only true Light, Jesus Christ. And I want to create the most excellent art I can for His glory. But sometimes that takes me a while.

I wrote my first story in first grade and decided I was a writer. By third or fourth grade, publishing a novel was on my list of things to do with my life. I’ve basically never not been writing.

In December 2003, I graduated from college; in January 2004, no longer obligated to all the papers required by an English degree, I started drafting the first incarnation of what would become Seek and Hide. I revised it and rewrote it and scrapped it and started over and revised it and rewrote it. I gobbled craft books and worked to apply what I learned. For eight years, I worked on the same book.

Along the way, knowledgeable and reputable people advised me to consider putting this book in a drawer and starting a new story. At the very least, they said, don’t write the second book in this series. What if you never sell the first one? I wanted to be teachable, and their advice made sense, so I started something new. But I couldn’t care about it.

While I was engaging in author-angst over this, a writer friend asked me, “What do you want more? Yourself to be published, or this series to be published?” I don’t think she expected my answer, but I’m grateful she asked. After that conversation, I returned to Seek and Hide. And revised some more.

In 2011, I drafted the second book in the series. My agent signed me in May 2012 and then worked with me on needed story edits. In October 2013, she called to tell me David C Cook had offered a contract.

I’d never say everyone should be as stubborn about that first novel as I was. Not everyone reaches their goal by the same path. But if, like me, that story won’t leave you alone … maybe there’s a reason. If it’s not ready, don’t despair that it never can be. Learn craft. Be ruthless in revising. Trust God’s path for you even if it’s unusual; and to do that, focus on Him before you focus on your story. (I type this reminder to myself as well.) Falling sparrows matter to Him. Surely the stories He gifts us matter, too.

Six years ago, the government took control of the church. Only re-translated Bibles are legal, and a specialized agency called the Constabulary enforces this and other regulations. Marcus Brenner, a new Christian, will do anything to protect his church family from imprisonment—including risk his own freedom to gain the trust of a government agent.

Aubrey Weston recanted her faith when the Constabulary threatened her baby. Now released, she just wants to provide for her son and avoid government notice. But she's targeted again, and this time, her baby is taken into custody. If only she'd never denied Him, maybe God would hear her pleas for help.

When Aubrey and Marcus's lives collide, they are forced to confront the lies they believe about themselves. And God is about to grab hold of Marcus's life in a way he'd never expect, turning a loner into a leader.

As a child, Amanda G. Stevens disparaged Mary Poppins and Stuart Little because they could never happen. Now, she writes speculative fiction. Holding a Bachelor of Science degree in English, she has taught literature and composition to home-school students. She lives in Michigan and loves books, film, music, and white cheddar popcorn.

To learn more and connect with Amanda, please visit these sites:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Grace in Saint Louis by Heidi Chiavaroli

Heidi Chiavaroli
As I unpack my suitcase and mull over the events of the 2014 ACFW Conference, I am in awe—again—of God’s ever-present grace.

Where God’s grace found me:


12:30PM, Baggage Claims, St. Louis Airport—As I watch the carrousel come to a stop…without spitting out my luggage.

12:35PM, Baggage Claims Desk—As tears flow, I explain to the Delta clerk I have an appointment with an editor in two hours. I CANNOT wear jeans and sneakers. Neither would jeans do for the Gala that night.

No makeup. No hair products. No dress. And certainly no spanx. More tears.

1:00PM, Shuttle To Hyatt—Via cell, I pour out baggage woes to hubby and parents. Weird, but a strange peace fills me. I vow to fashion skirt out of hotel curtains if need be.

2:15PM, Hyatt—I spot my friend, Melissa, who offers khakis and a shirt for my appointment. I borrow her MIL’s Birkenstocks, three sizes too big, but better than sneakers.

3:00PM, Appointment—Gracious editor doesn’t seem offended by unruly hair, imperfect makeup, and too-big Birkenstocks.

3:25PM—Melissa issues Facebook plea for dress.

4:20PM—No Facebook bites. Drastic measures must ensue. Melissa and amazing friend, Karin, and I power walk through St. Louis. These friends must prepare for Gala, but they accompany me on quest for cheap perfect dress.

4:38PM, Can’t-Remember-The-Name-Dress-Store—Amidst pricy dresses, I settle for a dress in clearance section.

5:01PM—Check with guest services. Luggage still not here.

5:15PM—Put on dress and realize all undergarments can be seen through dress.

5:30PM, Melissa’s Room—Don black pants and Birkenstocks and assure myself it’s not that bad. (Oh, but it is!)

5:40PM—Step into elevator with ladies in stunning gowns and perfect curls, my own frizzy hair and makeup pitiable in comparison.

5:43PM—Elevator doors open on fourth floor. Tear off Birkenstocks and run downstairs to lobby to inquire of luggage one more time. In a small miracle I still can’t fathom, I am told my luggage has arrived. I do happy dance. Clerk refuses to get luggage until I repeat happy dance.

5:45PM—Late for Gala. I ask Happy Dance Clerk to break the lock on my suitcase. He is excited to do this.

5:48PM—I drag my luggage to the nearest bathroom where I change and thank God the entire time.

8:30PM—I accept the Genesis award for Historical Fiction and make my speech. My appearance is far from perfect, but I have a dress. God has supplied me what I need.

Through all this, I felt a sense of undeserved caring—through friends and attendees, through the Hyatt staff, and mostly through God. On the plane ride home I wondered what He was trying to teach me through this. Then it hit me. He wasn’t trying to teach me anything.

He was trying to show me. Himself. His amazing grace.

Extravagant enough to send His only Son to die for me, simple enough to send a dress three minutes before a Gala.

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, October 15, 2014

Five Tips for Marketing Your Masterpiece, Part Two by Meaghan Burnett

Last week author marketing representative Meaghan Burnett shared two of the five tips she has for writers wanting to market their books through social media. -- Sandy 

Meaghan: What platforms should you be using?

Tip #3-Author Central: Did you know you should always set up your Author Central Account on Amazon? Author Central is set up to be its own sort of social media integration. You can connect your blog, your Twitter, and more. You can set up your events such as book signings and interviews on Amazon for people who are interested in your book. Amazon Central can also give you limited statistics from Neilsen Bookscan. While it doesn’t cover all areas of your sales, it can give you some insight to your numbers before you get your royalty check. The link to open an Amazon Central account is

#4- Goodreads: Goodreads is a fast-growing book review platform and media site. With its still somewhat recent purchase by Amazon, there is word of an up and coming site rework. Some new features have been added recently including an “Ask the author spot” for authors to interact with their readers directly. Goodreads is one of the least-used sites that can have direct impact on your sales. The giveaways typically help your numbers greatly as they invite people to read your description to sign up for free print books. While you only give away whatever number you specify, the increased traffic reading about your work gives you the option to expand your reach. Also, the author profile in Goodreads offers you another outlet to share your blog/website and build a stronger following. You can link your blog to Goodreads for people to be able to read excerpts and then they are taken to your site to read the full blog. As author traffic on your blog or website is always a great thing. Goodreads is ONLY for readers. This makes it one of the best sites for getting word out about your book. You can learn how to open an author profile and load your book on Goodreads at

#5- Facebook: Dynamic ad placement with targeting. Many of you have probably seen Facebook ads. You likely have clicked on a sponsored story to read it without realizing it was a paid ad. Perhaps you tried Facebook ads but didn’t think you got your money’s worth. Let me ask you this: Did you direct your ad to your target demographic? If your market is women 30-50 with a Christian base, did you direct the add to only target women of this age with interests of Christianity and reading? Is your book a niche book? These targeted ads help you to save money by only soliciting the audience you need to reach. The goal isn’t to covert people, it is to sell your book to the people who are looking for something like what you have. Facebook is one of the best platforms for this. You don’t need to spend tons to get results, but here are some tips:
  • Make sure you use the advanced options tab.
  • Set a start and an end date. Check it 2x. (Many an author has been duped into spending more than they wished this way . . . and Facebook doesn’t usually refund them.)
  • Set your target parameters.
  • Set a fixed budget. $5-7 dollars a day is more than sufficient for a week run.
  • The right column ad is generally a wasted option. Stick with the sponsored stories option and make sure your content is good.
  • Don’t use the word Facebook in your ad or they will decline it.

Now that you have some new tips you haven’t tried yet in your marketing, I hope you enjoy the results. Remember that you can be your best advocate in this process and the stronger your media platforms, the more appealing your book can be to publishers. A strong social media platform can help you turn the tide between a successful launch and a dud. 

Have you run Facebook ads? Any success? What about Goodreads? Are you there? Do you have an Author Central page on Amazon?


Meaghan Burnett is an entrepreneur who started managing her family’s three businesses when she was eighteen and found she had a knack for developing new business strategies that helped make the businesses successful. She then expanded her horizons and started working for the largest international airline in the world. Meaghan started her own freelance consulting business in December of 2012 and has worked with clients from all over the country. To pursue her passion for literature, Meaghan began working with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas in 2013. She began in design, but turned her focus and efforts exclusively to marketing in order to help authors build their brands, make their marks on history, and be successful. Meaghan lives in Syracuse, NY with her family and can be contacted at or on her website at 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Scene Setting Tips by Gina Holmes

Gina Holmes
When I began writing novels, description was not an area of strength for me, and setting was just a place to plop my characters. Fast forward ten years and my publisher compliments my upcoming release with a “You can smell the salt in this one.” DRIFTWOOD TIDES (releasing this September) is set at the Outer Banks in North Carolina. You can’t set a book a place like that without readers expecting a richly painted scene. They want to feel the cold ocean foam on their feet, feel the grit of sand between their toes, hear the seagulls circling above, see the cotton candy colors in the sunset . . . and yes, smell the salt.
  1. The best way to learn to master setting is by reading other books that have done just that. One novel that sets the scene better than maybe any other book I’ve read is To Kill a Mockingbird. Here’s one example of the masterfulness of her scene-setting:

    “Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop, grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square.” You don’t get better than that.

  2. Go feel the roses.

    It might go without saying to go to the place you are setting your work, but I’m going to say it anyway. Close your eyes and listen, first to the obvious sounds: sirens, traffic, subway, whatever. Don’t stop there. Listen for the underlying background noise: car doors slamming, the flutter of pigeon wings. Listen beyond that to the softer noises until you’ve made note of all the sounds the setting has to offer. When your eyes are closed and you’re noting a particular sound, before you open your eyes, try to guess what you’re hearing.

    While writing DRIFTWOOD TIDES, I sat on the beach, closed my eyes and heard what I would have guessed to be a sprinkler system rapidly firing. I knew it couldn’t be, but that’s what it sounded like. It was actually the sound of chirping cicadas and the sprinkler system description was something I was able to use to describe that sound in the book.

    You can do the same close your eyes technique for smell and touch too. Write down as many descriptions and comparisons as you can while they’re still fresh in your mind.

  3. If you can’t go there, visit vicariously. Watch movies set where your book is, take lots of notes.

  4. Observe the details. One little trick that brings fiction to life lies in writing in the little things that we take for granted. Not just the sandy beach, but the water that fills a footprint left in the sand… watch how it’s absorbed back into the ground and the tiny bubbles that pop up right before it does.
You get the picture. And if you do it right, so will your readers.

Have you read any particular authors that make their settings real? What do you do to help you set the scene?

Driftwood Tides
by Gina Holmes
Gina Holmes writes about flawed people living in a flawed world with the help of a perfect God. She's a two-time Christy and ECPA Book of the Year finalist as well as winner of the INSPY, Inspirational Reader's Choice and Carol Award. Her third novel, Wings of Glass was named among the best books of 2013 by Library Journal. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter or her website.

He made himself an island until something unexpected washed ashore.

When Holton lost his wife, Adele, in a freak accident, he shut himself off from the world, living a life of seclusion, making drifwood sculptures and drowning his pain in gin. Until twenty-three-year-old Libby knocks on his door, asking for a job and claiming to be a friend of his late wife. When he discovers Libby is actually his late wife’s illegitimate daughter, given up for adoption without his knowledge, his life is turned upside down as he struggles to accept that the wife he’d given saint status to was not the woman he thought he knew.

Together Holton and Libby form an unlikely bond as the two struggle to learn the identity of Libby’s father and the truth about Adele, themselves, and each other.