Friday, July 3, 2015

Writer Fear by Melinda Viergever Inman

Melinda Viergever

I’m a pretty tough chick. Not only do I come from pioneer stock, a hardy breed, but also the Lord has used our family tragedies to instill strength I would never have chosen to learn. Even with all that, some of my efforts as a writer have been the scariest deeds I’ve ever personally attempted.

This isn’t about wife-strength or mother-strength. This is solely about me, just as your writer struggles are entirely about you. The writing journey prompts us to chase after some of the bravest feats we've ever pursued as individuals.

Over and over we have to push past fear.

Early on we have to overcome shyness about allowing others to read what we’ve written, and we must move rapidly to accepting criticism of our work. We’re not building cars here. We’re gushing our hearts onto the page, so criticism often feels very personal. We must learn to separate our craft from our person. It’s tough.

We have to learn an entire industry that was previously unknown—new terms, new rules, new formats for presenting our work. Our social fears come to bear. We’re afraid one little mistake might cost us a contract, and it might. Still we must press on.

Developing a thick skin progresses from taking criticism to being rejected through silence. No response to queries and messages feels very personal. Will we give up or will we press on? Learning to move forward, because God has given us a message to share, produces courage and strength.

Overcoming fear never stops, even after we’re published. Then the criticism becomes public. As businesswomen, we must market our fiction without fear that others will think we’re brazen. And we must do it all again when we present our next novel to the public.

Recently I stared down yet another scary publishing endeavor. I launched out into indie publishing and utilized a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds. It was far more intense than a book launch!

This campaign caused me to realize I still had fear lurking below the surface. If the fund request was not met totally, no funds would be received. No funds equals no novel. Fear enlarged when I took my eyes off the Lord, and fastened them onto people and expectations.

Thankfully, God is with me, and he is with you! That is the crucial reality.

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

The Lord enables us to hit that “send” button, just as surely as he enables us to care for a sick child or to say goodbye to a parent. He empowers us to broadcast our words, so he can direct them to the readers he knows need them. His promises sustain us. Just as they apply to the other parts of our lives, so they also apply to our writing.

God met me in miraculous ways in my latest challenge. He helped me not to be afraid as I worked so hard to achieve the outcome, even if I might not gain success.

As Romans 8:31 says, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Regardless of the outcome, nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35), not a scary publisher, slow sales, or Kickstarter.

These realities provide power for life. They sustain us. So hit that “send” button, attend that conference, query that big-name agent, or go indie. God is with you!

Nudged toward evil by Satan, Cain 's hard-hearted hubris results in Abel's murder and Lilith's broken heart when he is banished, splitting the family and propelling mankind toward ever-increasing violence as their siblings seek revenge. Crushed by what he's done, Cain runs, certain he's destroyed Lilith, his parents, and the entire family. With Satan hounding his every move and no idea of the forces arrayed against him, can Cain ever find God after he's committed a sin of such magnitude? Can he ever be forgiven?

Melinda Viergever Inman was raised in the tornado capital of the U.S.—Wakita, Oklahoma, of "Twister" fame. There her parents met. There her roots were sunk in a storytelling family. During years of relocation, tragedy struck. Wounded and heartbroken, Melinda forsook her roots and ran from herself and from God. A journey of trial and heartache brought her home again. A prodigal now returned to her secure foundation, she writes with passion, illustrating God's love for wounded people as he makes beauty from ashes. Refuge is her first novel. Melinda shepherds women in church and in prison ministry and writes inspirational material on her biweekly blog at With her family she is involved with Mission India, rescuing orphans and providing theological and job training for impoverished students—

You can learn more and connect with Melinda here:


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Don’t Skip a Word by Susan Tuttle

Image courtesy of JulesInKY on
As writers we want each word we put on the page to mean something to the reader. If it doesn’t, we pull it out. We count each word—literally—and only keep those that add value to the story we’re writing. Each one is thought over and chosen with careful deliberation. And only the best word choice is used. We pour over synonyms to create the perfect picture that tells the story exactly as we created it to be seen.

We don’t want the reader to skip one single word.

This thought was with me recently as I remembered Hebrews 12:2 where God is mentioned as the author of our faith. It occurred to me that if the words I choose for my story world are selected so carefully, then the God who writes my story is doing no less. Just as we don’t want anyone to skip a word we put on the page, God doesn’t want us to miss any of the moments he’s chosen for us.

But we try, don’t we? We skip words, paragraphs, even pages out of the moments he’s penned into our lives. Sometimes they’re too painful so we avoid them. Maybe we’re incredibly busy, so we skim through certain periods. Maybe it’s a section that doesn’t hold our attention or a portion that we’re so busy rewriting in our head that we miss it all together. Whatever the reason, we skip the words.

Yet just as people won’t get the full effect of our stories if they leave pieces out, we miss out on the fullness of what God has for us when we don’t take it word-by-word. The happy, the sad, and yes, even the painful. Each word he authors in our lives is meant to build upon the next one, and when we stick around for the entire tale the end product is beyond what we could imagine. It’s our happily-ever-after.

Best of all? He meets you on every page of your story.

So don’t skip a word of it.

Susan Tuttle
Susan Tuttle is a homeschooling mom of three who is crazy about coffee, dark chocolate, and words—both reading and writing them. Combine that love of words with her passion for leading women to a life-changing encounter with Christ, and you’ll find her crafting Inspirational Contemporary Romance stories laced with humor, love, and healing transformations. When not cheering on her Ironman hubby, chasing the family dog, or tackling complex math problems to teach her kids (yes, even the third grader), you can catch Susan at her blog, Steps.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

I Don’t Know Nothing About School Nurses, Miss Scarlet by Shannon Vannatter

Research is a hefty part of writing a novel (or anything for publication). Sometimes, it's hard to find just the right answers to our questions. Today, author Shannon Vannatter shares about an experience she had and the friends she made in the process. -- Sandy

Shannon: My heroes and heroines in my books have had lots of careers. Over the years, I relied on friends and family in some of the fields, experience, Googling, attending The Fort Worth Championship Rodeo, and talking to experts. But for my newest heroine, a school nurse, I had nothing.

I questioned if Raquel Marris, heroine in Rodeo Reunion really needed to be a former ER turned school nurse. But it fit the story. When ladies at church asked what book I was working on, I learned that two of our members have daughters who are school nurses. Yippee. But they were both going through trying times right when I needed to pick their brains. I muddled through, googled, and faked it.

To complicate things further, I learned that each state has different laws concerning school nurses. Even school districts in the same state have various guidelines and laws.

Another church member used to be a nurse. But she’s working for a natural gas company in Texas right now, so I really couldn’t pick her brain either.

Since the book was set in Texas, an Arkansas nurse really wouldn’t fit the bill anyway. I turned to American Christian Fiction Writers. I’m a member of the national organization and the membership in the thousands. One of the many benefits, an e-mail loop where we can ask for help with our current projects. I put out a call for nurses or school nurses. Usually when I ask a question on the ACFW loop, my inbox fills up. This time, I got nothing.

Since I have over 1200 friends on Facebook, I decided to give it a shot. A lot of my friends, I don’t even know. Most of the ones I don’t know are authors or readers. I had no idea if there were any nurses out there. I asked for help from Texas nurses or school nurses with my current book. For two days—nothing.

By this time, I’d turned in the book with a promise to my editor that I’d research the medical scenes before final edits. I was starting to get worried. But then messages started coming in. Soon, I was in touch with a school nurse in Texas and one in Arkansas, plus a registered nurse in Arkansas.

I peppered all three with questions and the Arkansas school nurse even read a pivotal scene to make sure it was believable. I’m so thankful she did—my scene was way over the top. I put all three very helpful ladies in my acknowledgements and promised them copies of the book when it released. And made three new Facebook friends.

Do you have go-to friends or acquaintances when it comes to those tricky research questions that must be answered? Have you made new friends through your research?


Award winning, central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She lives in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows and once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots.

She has eleven published titles and is contracted for four more. Her books are available at,,,, and Learn more about Shannon and her books at and check out her real life romance blog at


And Slade Walker's not a likely candidate. Even if the former major league pitcher just agreed to coach her son's little league team. The single mom can't risk everything on a bronc-riding chaplain who's only passing through Raquel's small Texas town.

Slade is taking a hiatus from the rodeo circuit to meet the sister he never knew he had. But the pretty widowed nurse next door is making him think twice about hitting the road again. He can't turn his back on the cowboys who need him, but Raquel and her boy need him, too. Can Slade fulfill his calling and finally find a place to hang his hat?

Purchase Links:

Giveaway details: Here’s something special to commemorate the Heartsong Presents line since it’s ending this month. Comment to enter the drawing for a copy of Rodeo Reunion. Ten copies will be split among names drawn during the blog tour from June 1st – July 1st. One winner will receive a baseball themed memory board personally crafted by the author. Winners will be revealed on the author’s blog on July 22nd. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What To Do When Your Manuscript Is Stuck by Vannetta Chapman

Vannetta Chapman
I love new ideas. You know that moment--the one where you're looking at a brand new page, on a clean new document. That place where you are just beginning. It's like an unmarked page on a brand new calendar. There are limitless possibilities!
Fast forward a month, or several months, and suddenly you're rather tired of these people you have created. You're not sure where they're headed, or why they're going there. You really wish you could just move on to another project. Or maybe that's just me!

So what do you do when your manuscript is stuck in the mud? How do you move on? I'm working on my twenty-fifth manuscript, so I have some experience with this phenomenon. Here are a few things that have helped me over the hump.
  • Stop and write your ending. I do this every book now. I begin at the beginning, and then write until I'm bored. That's usually somewhere between 30 and 40 thousand words. When I find myself STUCK (playing more solitaire, cleaning out the bottom desk drawer--you know the symptoms), I move on and write the ending of my story. This might be one chapter or a dozen. You might be asking, “How can you know the ending if you don't know the middle?” I just envision where I want my characters to be when the book is done.
  • Take a break! Sometimes you need a day or two, maybe even a week, away from your manuscript. Set a defined limit and give yourself time off, then start back at it with a well-rested mind.
  • Go to the hammock with a pen and paper. Write down 10 things that could happen to your characters. Don't police your thoughts. Anything goes here! Be as outlandish as you'd like. The next day look at your list, pick one idea, and follow that thread.
  • Consult your notes. If you had any original notes for your manuscript (or even an outline, maybe a synopsis), pull it out and look at it. No doubt, your characters have developed in different ways than you imagined and your plot has taken a few curves. What about those original notes still appeals to you?
  • Pray. You initially felt that God put this story on your heart to share. Ask for guidance and a direction. Ask that God bless your words and your work and use it to touch lives.
  • Keep writing. Even when it feels like you're writing complete nonsense, keep writing. Push through until you find the path your characters are supposed to take. Yes, you may delete some of these pages later, but deleting is not a problem. Just. Keep. Writing.
Being stuck is not a sign of imminent disaster. In my opinion, it's a natural part of the writing process. Hopefully one of these ideas will help you when you’re stuck in the mud. Now it's your turn. What suggestions do you have for writers who are stuck?

About the Author
Murder Freshly Baked
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 most recent release is Murder Freshly Baked, the third book in her Amish Village Mystery series. Chapman lives in the Texas hill country with her husband.

Murder Freshly Baked
When delicious baked goods become lethal, a trail of poetry leads to a sweet-toothed killer.

The Amish Artisan Village of Middlebury, Indiana, might be the last place you would ever expect to find a murderer. But Amber has been managing the Village for decades and there’s nothing she hasn’t seen. Or so she thought.

When poetic notes begin appearing around the bakery, warning that some of the pies have been poisoned, Amber is as confused as she is concerned. Who poisons pies? And more to the point, who leaves poems of warning after they’ve done it?

Can Amber and Hannah help the police before the Poison Poet strikes? Both women will need to draw on their faith to preserve the peaceful community they’ve built in Middlebury . . . and to protect the girls who work in the Amish Artisan Village.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Characterization of Teens vs. Adults by Annette M. Irby

Student with laptop*

Have you ever written a character that wasn’t close to your own age? For instance, perhaps you’re thirty-eight, but your character is sixteen. Or you’re writing a twenty-something, but he’s coming across as fifteen?

Years ago, I had written a story with a female lead who came across to early readers as adolescent, but that’s not what I’d meant to portray. And at the time, I couldn’t always discern why she seemed so young. Then, recently, as I was editing a manuscript (not the earlier one), I saw a pattern in the character’s actions that brought up this adolescent vs. adult characterization. So, I brainstormed some differences between teens and adults. These are generalizations, but perhaps you'll find them helpful:

Teens overreact to situations, perhaps because they haven’t seen them before. Challenges feel like “the end of the world.”

Adults have weathered tough situations and know storms pass.

Teens tend to participate in and tolerate melodrama in their lives.

Adult generally prefer less drama.

In the lives of teenagers, there are lots of firsts (first job, first romance, first drive). So youthful characters would experience more wonder, less cynicism, more optimism.

Adults have more life experience. Adults can sometimes become cynical and pessimistic as they see evil patterns repeated over time.

Teens tend to judge.

Adults often overlook flaws more than teens do.

Teens tend to focus on externals. For example, one of the first requirements in romance might be appearance.

Adults generally search for internals. In romance, adults might look for character traits they now realize they need or prefer in their lives.

Teens generally aren’t cautious. They feel immortal, like risks, and perhaps have pride. They are independent, feeling the consequences of their actions only affect them. They tend to think “it’s all about me.”

Adults have matured. Life has humbled them. Since others (employers, spouses, children) are counting on them (more than in their youth), they tend to take fewer risks for the sake of others. “It’s about them.”

Teens don’t generally think long term. They make decisions for the situation they’re in, rather than consider how they’ll feel twenty or thirty years in the future. (Perhaps because they have only just begun thinking in terms of decades. They can’t imagine carrying a regret for a lifetime.)

Adults consider life decisions in terms of regrets, and the “test of time.”

Teens are still learning to be responsible (drivers, employees, stewards, etc.)

Adults have generally learned the value of responsibility.

Teens tend to shy away from unpleasant tasks, choosing procrastination. (Perhaps out of fear they won't have the necessary skills or know-how.)

Adults have learned how to reward themselves for tackling difficult jobs and the satisfaction of having them finished. Adults also tend to trust they'll have the capability (or resources) to finish the job.

Teens tend to think in terms of “black or white” (or, shall we say “red or green”).

Adults know there is always more than one side to every story.

Teens tend to go along with popular mindsets.

Adults analyze mindsets and develop their own set of beliefs.

Again, these are generalizations. For the twenty-something character, you could combine some of these traits because twenty-somethings are figuring out the world, and learning “responsible independence” for themselves. I hope this list helps when working on characterization.

Write on, friends.  

*photo credit: "Student" by Gualberto107 at


Her Nerdy Cowboy

Whoever heard of a bookish cowboy? When Logan McDaniel’s brother-in-law dies, he steps in to help his beloved sister run her ranch. But what does a city boy know of herding cattle? Claire Langley loved her cousin. After he dies, she agrees to serve as a temporary nanny for two heartbroken children. 

Claire and Logan find they share a love of books, and Claire can’t resist the nerdy uncle who is great with children, and who reads to her of pirate romance. Claire’s ailing mother needs her in Seattle. Can she break away? And if she does, can there ever be a future for Logan and her?


Annette M. Irby

Annette M. Irby has three published books and 
runs her own freelance editing business, AMI Editing
See her page here on Seriously Write for more information.

Friday, June 26, 2015

What’s in a Name? Memories, perhaps? by C. Kevin Thompson

C.Kevin Thompson

Ever wonder how authors come up with names for their characters? I’m not sure if they are unique or not, but I’ve used several methods. For example, surname lists on the internet for foreign characters can be very helpful to pick that perfect name to match the character’s persona. First name lists, organized by which name was the most popular in whatever year your character was born, is another helpful way to locate that correct name and spelling. Probably weren’t that many Gertrude’s born in 1975. Nor were many Heathers or Brittanys born in 1776. 

Sometimes, I just look to the shelf. Often, names of authors or names used within some of those books can be useful. I found the perfect name for a Russian scientist in a book about Vladimir Putin. Name mining, I call it. Makes it very real.

However, my favorite way has been to pull a page out of Thomas Kinkade’s “book,” so to speak. Many of you may already know this, but when Kinkade painted, he would embed the initials of his wife, or her name, into his paintings. It became a sort of trademark. People would obsess with trying to find that “N” for Nanette. It’s been reported that he put 156 “N’s” in his Golden Gate Bridge painting.

As you read my first book, The Serpent’s Grasp, you find some important names, to me, that is. Since I dedicated the book to my wife, I felt using her name in the story would be melodramatic, so, instead, you’ll find the married names of my two oldest daughters. They are introduced in the order in which they got married: middle daughter’s married name appears first, then my oldest daughter’s married name appears later. They’re not major characters. But that’s just it. I needed names for some role players…and this method was just kind of born out of necessity. (And no, I’m not going to tell you what they are…that’s part of the fun. I’m sure the information will come out eventually when I do my Entertainment Tonight interview…a guy’s got to dream, right?)

In my second book, 30 Days Hath Revenge (A Blake Meyer Thriller – Book 1), you’ll find I utilized my namesake grandson, but I used it in a bit of a more creative way by making his first name the last name of the character. When he gets older (he’s five), I’ll show him, explain it all, and it will be something we two can cherish together.

In the manuscript of Book 2 to the Blake Meyer Series, you’ll find my granddaughter’s first and middle name used, again, in a creative way. And in the manuscript for Book 3, you’ll find my oldest and youngest grandsons’ names. With one, I used just his first name because it’s a little unique. The other, I used his first and middle name in the same fashion as the granddaughter. I plan to use my third oldest grandson in Book 4, and eventually use my daughter’s first names in the remainder of the series, if they work out. If not, they pop up eventually.

The point is this: You need names, so why not use ones that have meaning? It’ll make for a great coffee table discussion when the fan club’s book group tries to figure out where the “N’s” are. But more importantly, it uses the people you love, within the craft you love, with the everlasting power of the written word, to create a legacy you all can treasure.

A Clandestine Mission.
A Cryptic Message.
A Chaste Promise.

Blake Meyer dreamed of a peaceful end to a dutiful career with the FBI. Married now, his life was taking him in a new direction—a desk job. He would be an analyst. Ride it out until retirement. Be safe so he could enjoy his grandchildren some day.

But when a notable member of the IRA is murdered in a London flat, Blake’s secretive past propels him into the middle of a vindictive, international scheme so hellish and horrific, it will take everything Blake possesses—all of it—to save the United States from the most diabolical terrorist attack to date.

C. KEVIN THOMPSON is an ordained minister with a B.A. In Bible (Houghton College, Houghton, NY), an M.A. in Christian Studies (Wesley Biblical Seminary, Jackson, MS), and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership (National-Louis University, Wheeling, IL). He presently works as an assistant principal in a middle school. He also has several years experience as an administrator at the high school level.

A former Language Arts teacher, Kevin decided to put his money where his mouth was and write, fiction mostly. Now, years later, Kevin is a member of the Christian Authors Network (CAN), American Christian Fictions Writers (ACFW), and Word Weavers International. He is the Chapter President of Word Weavers-Lake County (FL), and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (Winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) and 30 Days Hath Revenge - A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1, as well as articles in The Wesleyan Advocate, The Preacher, Vista, The Des Moines Register and The Ocala Star-Banner.

Kevin is a huge fan of the TV series 24, The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, and Criminal Minds, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic, too.

Kevin’s Writer’s Blog:
Kevin’s Educational Blog:
Facebook: C. Kevin Thompson – Author Fan Page
Twitter: @CKevinThompson
Goodreads: C. Kevin Thompson