Thursday, February 11, 2016

Goal Setting for Writers by Julie Jarnagin

Terri here. I'm pleased to welcome my friend and USA Today Best Selling Author Julie Jarnagin to Seriously Write. Julie is a talented and goal driven author. I always find her advice helpful and I'm sure you will as well.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love all things goal setting and productivity. The research and science behind making new habits and reaching new goals is fascinating to me, especially as a writer…because writing is hard! Don’t you agree?
For me this writing journey takes willpower, concentration, and energy that some days I’m lacking. But when I look at my goals, I remember why it’s so important to make writing a priority in my life.

Here are 10 tips for setting and reaching your goals:

1. Make sure you have the right goal - Is it measurable? Is it realistic? Is it in your control? The last one is important. If your goal is to get a contract from your dream publisher by the end of the year, that’s something you can’t control. It’s an awesome dream, but not as useful as a goal. Instead, set a goal like – Have my manuscript complete and ready to pitch to the publisher at the conference or send out 15 query letters. These are measurable and in your control.

2. Look for the “why” behind your goal and visualize success – Why is this goal important to you? What makes the time and sacrifice worth it? How will you feel when you accomplish the goal? What would that look like? Knowing the why will help you know if you’re doing things for the right reasons and help get you through the tough times.

3. Limit the number of goals you’re focusing on at once – This is one reason so many people struggle with New Year’s Resolutions. They want to eat healthy, start a new exercise routine, find a new career, and get out of debt. We can’t do it all at once! This year, I broke my New Year’s resolutions down by month. Each month I focus on a different area. This means I can use all my willpower in one area – not ten.

4. Write down your goals and track your progress - Putting things on paper is powerful. Post your goal somewhere you can see it or share it with a trusted person in your life.

5. Do something concrete to help you achieve success - If your goal is to write more, schedule the date, time, and word count in your calendar. If your goal is to improve your writing craft, sign up for an online workshop or purchase the books you plan to read to make this happen.

6. Recognize that if you’re adding something to your life, you’re also going to have to give something up – Want to do more marketing? Where is the time going to come from? Are you going to give up one of your nightly television shows, wake up earlier, or spend less time on Pinterest. If you’re not careful, the time will be stolen from something you didn’t intend, like working on your manuscript or getting to bed at a decent hour.

7. Review your goals – Have a process for reviewing your goals regularly—whether that’s putting it in your calendar or putting a slip of paper with your goals in your wallet that you pull out every now and then. Revisit them to make sure you’re still on track.

8. Reward yourself - If your resolution is to work on your novel every day, reward yourself with a new book or a coffee from Starbucks each month that you write 20 or more days.

9. Don’t be afraid to fail – Nobody is perfect. If you get off track, get up and try again.

10. Give God room to work – Sometimes we think our list of goals is the best and only way to achieve success. Goals are good and useful, but only if we seek God when we’re setting them and seek God throughout the process. Goals are meant to keep us on track, but don’t be so set on your own road that you don’t notice if God is paving a new one for you.

Do you set specific writing goals? What are they? Do you write them down? How do you plan to stick to them?

Paige Morgan’s career is in shambles. What kind of wedding planner gets left at the altar? So when a job planning parties on a ranch in rural Texas comes her way, she jumps at it. So what if the cowboy who runs the place isn’t happy she’s there?
Rancher Nick Reid risked his heart once… and lost. Who needs love? He’s got a great life on the family ranch—so long as Paige Morgan and her city ideas don’t ruin it all. If only his family didn’t need her help to save their livelihood. And if only he wasn’t so darned drawn to the woman. But no sooner does Nick start to believe in love again, than a socialite shows up looking for Paige. Asking her to plan an elaborate wedding. Back in the city.
Both Paige and Nick need a second chance at love. But what will it cost them to take it?
USA Today Best Selling author Julie Jarnagin writes sweet and inspirational romance. She grew up in a small Oklahoma town where her family farmed and ranched. These days she lives in a not-so-big city with her amazing husband and two young sons who tolerate all her nerdy quirks. Julie earned a B.A. in Journalism / Professional Writing from the University of Oklahoma and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Sign up for her newsletter to be the first to learn about new releases and free books:



Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Marketing Memes by Crystal L Barnes

I don't know about you, but I love reading and creating memes. They're perfect for placing on social media posts, which are going more and more image heavy. Today author Crystal Barnes shares some of her memes and provides tips to help you create your own. -- Sandy

Crystal: Howdy y’all! Crystal Barnes here, and I’m so happy to be a guest today on Seriously Write. Unfortunately, we all know writing is more than just writing. It’s also rewriting and editing, marketing and advertising, … We could be here all day listing other things that go into being an author.

Let’s just limit ourselves to memes for the moment. Okay, raise your hand—have you ever heard of a meme before? No? Here’s an example:

How ’bout now? Most folks have seen memes; they just don’t know that’s what they’re called. I didn’t the first time I heard the term. I didn’t even pronounce it right, but then again, I’m a Texan and can butcher words with the best of ’em. J

Vocabulary notwithstanding, I now make my own memes. I figured I’d share with y’all a few key things to remember when designing your memes:

1. Make it easy to read
  • Don’t use fonts or colors that will clash or make the words hard to read.
  • Don’t try to overload it with too long a script or too many images.

2. Use a cliffhanger or a hook from your story. Humor is good to use too.
  • Remember the goal is to get them to go pick up your book. J 

3. Be sure to include the title of your book, your name, and where they can buy it.
  • Don’t make ’em work to find the info to go purchase your novel. You’ve hooked them, now reel ’em in. J  

4. Use a picture that reflects what you write or what the story is about.
  • This may or may not include the cover. You can have a good meme without the book cover on it, but it sure does help. J 

5. Study what works for others.
  • Here is an example provided by my buddy Janice Thompson.

I hope the list and examples provided here today help you with your next meme or your first. One last thing I figured I’d toss your way is a few sites where you can design your memes online:,, and imgflip.

Do y’all have any other items you’d like to add or a website you like to use for your memes? Have you tackled making your own memes before?


An award-winning author, Crystal L Barnes also happens to be a born-n-raised Texan and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). She has a degree in Computing Science because she loves putting things into their proper place, and she enjoys writing because she gets to share her love of old-fashioned things and the Lord.

Want to stay connected? Find Crystal at her website, on her blog, the Stitches Thru Time group blog, her Amazon Author page, Goodreads, Pinterest, Google+, or on her Facebook author page.

Want to be notified of her latest releases and other fun tidbits? Subscribe to her newsletter.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The End of Myself by Buck Storm

Buck Storm
At the western tip of Texas the I-10 angles north and cuts the Mexican border. Through my passenger window El Paso shines in the sun, clean and bright. On my left the low-slung shacks of Juarez, Mexico spread themselves across the desert hills beneath an ominous haze of dust and smoke.

I drive, carefully balanced at seventy-miles-per-hour between two worlds—a familiar state-of-being for me. Two weeks into a busy five-week tour, I’m already tired. We shave off the bottom of New Mexico then pass the Welcome to Arizona sign just as the sun digs its way into the desert floor. If I were to turn north right now I could find Paradise, Arizona—the setting for my first novel. A place that lives only in my imagination, but as real to me as Des Moines or Cairo. I’d have carnitas at Shorty’s, watch the sunset from the deck of Spur’s Tavern, and spend the night at the Venus Motel.

The speedometer nudges eighty and the lights of Tucson dot the horizon. Man! The hours, days, months working on that book… I’ve lived the characters, walked the streets of my imaginary town. I can smell the place.

In other words—I’m invested. I hope it’s a good book. I get nice emails from happy fans. My publisher put it up for an award or two… Then why isn’t that little 250-page package of my blood and sweat changing the world? Or at least paying my kid’s college tuition?

Tucson in the rear-view, the needle settles at a solid eighty-five and discouragement tugs my sleeve. I’ve done the marketing dance. I’ve gotten my social media friends in a “check my book out, I’m an author” headlock more times than I can count. What’s the story?

Then, at a gas station on the outskirts of Casa Grande, I am reminded (again). I pick up my phone—equivalent to Poe’s opium pipe—to check for new reader reviews. Instead, I see a message from an old friend saying she’s reading and enjoying The Miracle Man. I realize with a rush that this lady who doesn’t have any real knowledge of Jesus and would never step foot in a church is being touched by my story.

God laughs and slaps me on the back with conviction that is both painful and good. Who do I think I am? At the end of the day I don’t deserve to breathe air and He calls me friend! And by His grace I’ve just received compensation that infinitely outweighs any royalty check I could ever dream of.

Forgive me, Jesus! Please bring me to the end of myself.

I hope I can encourage you like that phone message encouraged me. We work so hard dreaming up with our beginnings, middles, and endings. But even so, we can’t see the whole story. We are part of something bigger than we’ll ever know this side of Heaven. The lack of sleep, the agent hunt, the publishers and rejection letters, the endless edits… Maybe it’s not about units sold at all. Maybe it’s about that one, broken person who suddenly finds herself awash in God’s love and hears those sweet words whispered, “Come home daughter, I miss you…” And she does.

Wouldn’t it all be worth it?

Hand to the plow, fellow pilgrims! Don’t let discouragement get the upper hand. We can always trust our faithful gifts will be well used in the loving hands of the real Writer.

And when the stars are a distant memory, we will remember and rejoice.

Fair winds,
Buck Storm

About the Author
Buck Storm has marked time as a commercial diver, fisherman, sailor, and musician. A veteran singer/songwriter, he’s bounced around the planet with a guitar and a pocketful of stories and made friends in venues everywhere. Buck writes about this mixed-up, out of control, beautiful cacophony we call humanity. About life as he sees it—or sometimes just how he'd like it to be. Buck and his wife, Michelle, have a happy love story, a hideout in North Idaho, and two wonderful children. The Miracle Man is his first novel.

Book two, Truck Stop Jesus is coming September 2016!

The Miracle Man
The Miracle Man
by Buck Storm

Welcome to Paradise. Off the beaten path, sleepy, backwater—call it what you will, police chief Luke Hollis likes his town just the way is. Clear skies and fair winds make for smooth sailing. Luke’s perfectly content to concentrate on nothing but a good cup of coffee and working up the nerve to approach his dispatcher, Ruby Brooks, with his feelings for her. When an unexpected miracle occurs at the Mount Moriah Pentecostal Church of God events are set in motion that will challenge him, test everything he believes, and ultimately change his life forever. Throw in a struggling minister, a world-class grifter, a stranger with an unbelievable story of love and redemption and the stage is set for The Miracle Man. By the time it’s all over everyone involved will come face to face with a Power that’s greater and more wonderful than any of them could have ever imagined.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Lovely Scent of Pride

Pride is an essential ingredient in a writer’s downfall.
Peter Leavell

Last year, the humidity in our home was so low, my body was a crispy flake of static cling. Winter. Sigh.

I lotioned my hands. Shea butter smells good.

That’s when I heard my wife call from the bedroom, ‘Can you help me with this?’ Yup, no problem. I take great pride in helping my wife with tasks around the house.

Our bedroom door was closed.

When I grasped the knob and turned, my palm spun pointlessly around the copper plating.



I tried with both hands, tightening my grip as hard as I could. Maddening!

The dog looked up at me, and I glared down at him. I’m glad he can’t talk, because he won’t be able to describe me trying to turn the round knob with my elbows.
My dog, Winston Churchill,
watching his master.

What were my options? Call out to my wife and ask her to open the door? Ask my kids to come and open it for me? No. I had my pride.

I lay on my back. At least my feet took some of the lotion off the doorknob.

I sat up and reviewed more options.
My t-shirt I’d gotten a few years ago from the Royal Gorge in Colorado would help me grip the knob, but it was my favorite, and I didn’t want to get lotion on the cloth. Especially since there weren’t that many holes in it yet.

Could my armpit open the door? My mouth? The dog? Knock the door down?

I decided to pray for guidance, so I shifted to my knees.

The door swung open and my wife looked down at me. ‘Are you okay?’
‘Yeah, just um…praying.’

She gave a soft smile. ‘Aw, awesome. Sorry.’ She lifted a bottle of lotion. ‘Hey, can you open this?’

Publishing a novel is a tough door to open, and frankly, we all need help. We’re not going to get through the door with pride. The best advice when I was learning to craft understandable sentences was listening to my editor.

If I didn’t take her advice, I wouldn’t have books published.

And if someone opened that door and offers you a publishing contract before you’re educated enough to rock your manuscript, then heaven help you.

My daughter opened the bottle of lotion.
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. 
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. 
West for the Black Hills
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, February 5, 2016

The Detour by Melinda Viergever Inman

Melinda Viergever Inman

The Detour

There I was, cruising down the writing road, pursuing my dream. Life was grand! I was a blogger; I had some pieces published. Of several drafted novels, my first was on its way to publication. I was one happy woman! At last I was a professional writer.

But during the publishing process, I hit a bump in the road. My husband’s mother declined during a long illness and died. We were weary and saddened, but after her memorial service, we returned to work.

By the deadline, I submitted my novel to my publisher, and then I started into my next project. But I gradually recognized that I was wiped out. I’d never felt this way before—thoroughly depleted, incapable of working. Clearly, I needed a vacation.

It was time for a detour. I scheduled a week off.

My throat hurt; my body ached. My energy was gone. The week turned into two and then three. In our hammock, I read fiction by other authors. I spent entire days in bed. Unable to function, I blogged from a horizontal position.

Next I had to drop all my outside duties, positions, and even my seminary track. Finally, after six weeks of this unscheduled detour, I headed to the doctor, unwittingly whirling a revolving door leading to few answers and many tests. My novel was published during this crushing fatigue and malaise.

More than a year passed. While working flat on my back, I marketed my first novel, ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, and prepped my second novel. But after passing it to my editor, I felt worse than ever, and now my parents were sick.

The writing road was supposed to be a smooth highway of bliss and tranquility.

I would bask in the glow of hundreds of reviews. My publisher would assign me a marketing team, so I could write and enjoy the profit from my labors. The many stories in my head would be printed. With the profits, I’d take my entire family on a long vacation.

But that didn’t happen. 

Instead, the detour narrowed to a perilous track through unmarked wilds. Recently, I received a diagnosis. My immune system is damaged. I have a rare autoimmune disorder. There’s no cure, only treatment to halt the progress.

When I learned the number of years and severity of treatment required, I knew this wasn’t a detour. This is now my life.

How did this happen? I write for the Lord. My stories touch hearts and lives. God intervenes with plot ideas, dialogue, and insight, so I can reveal truth about His love seamlessly within the story. I want to get back to that important work.

Like you, I proclaim Christ in my fiction and other writing, strenuously contending “with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me” (Colossians 1:29).

So why would God allow sickness to touch me? Because He’s sovereign, He’s good, and He knows best what provokes growth in me. He orchestrates everything for my spiritual benefit and the advancement of His Kingdom. 

This isn’t some strange journey taking me off-track from God’s call on my life. This is God’s call on my life. The detour is the road.

I’ve kept trying to get at least one foot back onto the smooth thoroughfare, but the Shepherd has chosen a better route, the road of refinement and greater reliance on Him. It’s an intimate trail. There’s room for two. I’ll trust His leading as I journey through treatment while my next novel awaits publication. I’ll work, as I’m able and He leads.

Many of you travel this road. Creative people—Laura Story, Vaneetha Rendall, Laura Hillenbrand—often journey on this byway. God uses it for our good.

What has the Lord taught you in your “detour”?

Love takes action: The Creator God establishes the cosmos and shapes a man. Adam rises from the dust. Envious, the powerful angel Lucifer despises him. Oblivious to the threat, Adam is captivated by his strong, intuitive wife Eve. In the Garden of Eden, they enjoy abundant food, gorgeous vistas, and intriguing challenges, including their budding love and passion. They have it all!

But Lucifer’s deceptive brilliance tricks them into disobeying God. They eat the one forbidden fruit. Their innocence is shattered. Their unity with one another and with God is destroyed. Death will follow. Lucifer’s jealousy threatens mankind’s tenuous beginning. But God is merciful. What astonishing promise does He make? How will Adam and Eve survive – broken, shattered, and separated from God?

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. Fallen is her second novel, Refuge her first. Melinda shepherds women in church and 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—



Thursday, February 4, 2016

That Pregnant Pause of the Publishing World by Susan Tuttle

Susan Tuttle
I have three children, and I remember each of my pregnancies vividly. Nine long months, a few where it looked like nothing was happening, and a few where it was more than evident I was pregnant. And it never failed how at the very end I’d hear the lovely question every pregnant woman longs to hear: “Have you had that baby yet?”

It was even more fun when you were overdue.

Well, for many of us on this publishing journey, it’s much the same. In the very beginning we keep our writing status to ourselves. We enjoy writing small stories or articles, perhaps journaling, but no one knows. It’s our little secret. Yet we’re slowly growing and at some point we can’t keep our writing to ourselves anymore. So we announce to anyone who’ll listen that we are, in fact, a writer. We’ll be pursing publication and all the amazing wonder it entails. We look forward with anticipation at what’s to come. We are giddy with excitement and possibility.

We don’t mind the growing pains. And we experience some wonderful moments along the way. We publish a small article. We are picked up by an agent. We hear wonderful news from a publisher. It’s like the gifts at a baby shower landing in our laps. Fun to unwrap and they point to what will one day arrive: publication and the delivery of our book baby.

Except, much like pregnancy, we don’t have an exact date. We grow, we expand, everything starts to feel uncomfortable and the wait unbearable, but nothing arrives. And then it starts…the question every writer pursuing publication for any length of time loves to hear: “Have you gotten a contract yet?”

It comes in all forms from all angles from well-meaning friends and family. And each time we smile, tip our head, suck in a long breath, and answer as sweetly as we can, “Still waiting.” It’s not that we mind the questions, it’s that we aren’t in love with the answer. We are stuck in the pregnant pause of the publishing world, and just like you can’t force a baby out (okay, not easily, but you get my point), you can’t force this delivery to happen any sooner than God has on his calendar.

That’s because God is the only Author that gets to write our time table. We need to learn to appreciate this pause and understand that he’s preparing us for his perfect timing. He knows exactly when we’ll be ready for our book baby to be born. Don’t rush it. Just wait for him to fill your arms with every promise he’s given.

Because God never forgets to deliver on the dreams he’s planted.

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.

Susan contributes on the first Thursday of each month.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Have Fun With Research by June Foster

Is gathering the facts to make your writing shine tedious or fun? Author June Foster talks about how she's learned to keep the fun in her novel research. -- Sandy 

June: I confess, my research requirements are minor compared to authors who write historical fiction. At an ACFW conference a couple of years ago, I attended a class taught by Tracie Peterson. The best-selling, award winning author writes historical novels set in a previous century. Her husband spends hours exploring information for each and every story.

Since I write contemporary romance set right here in the US, I don't need a lot of knowledge about present day culture such as clothing and hair styles, cars, movies and entertainment, types of food, or other components of American society.

The setting or where the story takes place must reflect the actual location. My novels are set in the Pacific Northwest and northern California and one in Alabama. Though the towns are fictional, I still have to be consistent with the location, climate, the dialects, the type of food people eat and so forth. In other words, I wouldn't have my Washington state characters talking with southern accents and eating grits and biscuits unless they recently moved from Arkansas or Alabama.

My stories reflect specific issues people face in today's world: anger, self worth, obesity, abortion, homosexuality, and many more. My Christian characters confront these challenges through the power of God and His word. For example, the hero in my current WIP is homeless so this is a topic I've had to thoroughly explore. I had the opportunity to visit an amazing Christian homeless shelter in Birmingham, AL and interview the chaplain in charge. A treasure trove of information. So, for each novel, I research the topic before placing my characters there.

When to do research? Back to my homeless character. I went online before I began the book to learn about the different kinds of shelters, why people go homeless, what to expect at a shelter, the dangers of living on the streets, etc. However, I found as I wrote my chapters that other questions arose so I switched from the internet to the story and back again as needed.

Research isn't tedious like writing a paper for a college class. At least not in my opinion. I'm so involved with my characters and their lives that it's fascinating and rewarding to learn about them and stay authentic. One advantage of doing research—I learn about a variety of subjects I never would've thought about before. I now know more about how a NICU works, adoption procedures in Washington state, wildlife management in Alabama, the workings of the ER and the duties of an interior designer. Research. Have fun with it.

What is the most fun you've had researching for a story? Have you ever let research scare you into not writing a story?


An award-winning author, June Foster is a retired teacher with a BA in education and MA in counseling. June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood Series, Give Us This Day, As We Forgive, and Deliver Us, and Hometown Fourth of July. Ryan's Father is available from WhiteFire Publishing. Red and the Wolf, a modern day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood and The Almond Tree Series, For All Eternity, Echoes From the Past, and What God Knew are available from Misty Hollow and A New Family are published by Helping Hands Press and available at Amazon. June enjoys writing stories about characters who overcome the circumstances in their lives by the power of God and His Word. Find June online at