Friday, November 17, 2017

Keep Pushing! by Gail Johnson

Writing and publishing a book has sometimes been compared to birthing a baby. There’s a lot of truth in that, as relayed in today’s post by Gail Johnson. Boy, can I relate! ~ Dawn

Keep Pushing!

When I became pregnant the second time, I did everything right. No cheeseburgers with extra pickles, no sitting around waiting. I ate my veggies and did my exercises.   

The first due date was February 14. Later, the doctor changed it to February 22. That didn’t happen either. My son refused to play along. March rolled around and they induced labor. After hours of pangs and an unexpected cesarean section, 9 pounds and 6 ounces of screaming flesh emerged, and we understood why I had failed to deliver my child. Ouch!

I tell you that story because every birth isn’t the same. Some moms do not carry a babe as long as others. Some deliver mere weeks after conception and others after hours—sometimes days of excruciating labor. Some women seem to blink and the baby appears, while others, like myself, need help.

It’s the same with writing. Some conceive an idea, and within months they’ve produced a robust bouncing story. Others conceive and labor—maybe years—before presenting their little bundle of joy to the world. This journey is unique. Certain steps may be easy for one, while excruciatingly difficult for another.

This year has been an I-didn’t-see-that-one-coming year. Obstacles and detours kept popping up along the way. You know what I’m talking about. Life happens and we must learn to roll with the punches. Easier said than done, I know. But once labor begins, it doesn’t stop. If we keep pushing, eventually, we will give birth to our dream.

A wise friend recently reminded me, “God’s timing is perfect.” I agree. Just as in childbearing, our WIP has a birthday too. God knows the perfect time to unfold it. So whatever pangs you are feeling at this moment, let me encourage you. Today’s birthing pangs will become tomorrow’s joyous cries of victory. Keep pushing!

With what part of the writing process do you struggle?

Gail Johnson
Gail Johnson enjoys sharing her passion for life and Christ through the power of the written word. Whether it’s through stories, articles, or songs, she invites her reader and listener to “taste and see” the hope she has found in a faithful God and loving Savior. Born and raised in Georgia, she is a wife and mother of two adult children. She enjoys lots of family time, good music, maple pecan ice cream, and southern living.

You can learn more and connect with Gail here:

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Defeating Doubt by Dee Dee Chumley

One fall morning in 2011, I was writing at my desk and glanced out the window to see a UPS truck pulling up in front of my house. At the sight of that familiar brown truck, my heart began  to race and my palms grew moist. I knew it was delivering fifty hot-off-the-press copies of my debut novel.

A few months prior, I’d been over-the-moon excited to learn an independent press would publish my book. Editing and developing marketing plans had kept me too busy to consider any downside of the process. But with the arrival of the books, reality—like an early morning alarm—jolted me from my blissful state. That wake-up call told me I’d wandered far afoul of my comfort zone. I’d put myself out there. Regardless of countess edits and re-writes, I’d exposed my shortcomings, inadequacies, and goofs to colleagues and fellow writers and (shudder) heartless reviewers. 

As I went about my routine tasks over the next few days, prayers for inner peace warded off full-blown panic attacks and reminded me that in the grand scheme of things my paltry book was fairly inconsequential. But still, the angst continued. Then one morning, as I was making up my bed and fighting back niggling fears, those prayers also led me to a most unusual source of comfort.

As a former English teacher, I was familiar with Puritan Anne Bradstreet’s poetry and vaguely recalled one that compared her recently published chapbook to a child. What was the title? A quick Google search brought me “The Author to Her Book,” and there, like a kindred spirit was Anne, expressing the doubts, the unease, the qualms she was suffering over the publication of her book. In the poem she bemoans all of her “offspring’s” “blemishes” and “defects.”  She scolds her “ill-formed offering of [her] feeble brain” for resisting repeated efforts to make it presentable. She “blushes” at its “irksome” appearance in print and fears for its acceptance. But Anne doesn’t deny or desert her “rambling brat.” Despite her harsh criticisms, her love for it is evident. She sends it out into the world, tenderly cautioning it to avoid the “critic’s hands.” She admonishes it to keep its father’s identity a secret, but with motherly pride, she acknowledges it as “mine own.”

And so, from the grave and across four centuries, the poet spoke and calmed me. She whispered to my roiling mind I wasn’t the first author—nor would I be the last—to wrestle with insecurities. She revealed that regardless of intelligence or talent or status, every writer takes a risk the minute she allows someone to read her work.

I realized, unlike Anne’s, my own “offspring” probably wouldn't survive for four centuries. But I also acknowledged an affection for my little ragamuffin that had grown from an embryonic idea to a fully formed book. If only a few friends and relatives read it, I was proud that I’d accomplished a personal goal and pushed myself to take a risk. Proud that I had a story to tell and had told it to the best of my ability.  

With my mind more at rest, the words from another woman long buried came to me, encouraging me and buoying my spirits. Long before the movie about her came out, I’d learned of Florence Foster Jenkins’ response to her critics. Borrowing from and slightly amending the words, I took Jenkins’ sentiments as my own, and I encourage all writers to use them as a rallying cry when self-doubts or fears of rejection threaten to steal their joy and passion for writing: Some may say I cannot [write]; but no one can say I didn’t. 

Angry loner  Gracene has just stepped out of the prison gates, and already she's planning another con job: she's moving to Transformation Place.

The apartment complex offers free rent and a ministry for ex-offenders. But there's a catch. The apartments and the program are for Christians, something Gracene knows she can never be. A dark secret has convinced her she is beyond forgiveness.

Faking her faith works for a while. She finds a good job with an understanding boss, and for the first time in her twenty-eight years, she has true friends. Even romance seems a possibility. At long last her life is headed in the right direction. But when a creeper from the past slithers back into her life, can Gracene's pretend faith save her from a U-turn?

Amazon Buy Link

Dee Dee Chumley has received numerous awards for her short stories, essays, and poems. In 2012 her debut novel Beyond the Farthest Star won Best Juvenile Book from the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc., and in 2017 she was a finalist in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest and published in their anthology of Best Short Stories of 2017. Her most recent work, Some Form of Grace, is available on Amazon. She blogs about focusing on everyday grace at and would love for you to friend her on Facebook or Twitter @dee_chumley. She is a member of OWFI and Oklahoma Christian Fiction Writers.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Why Each Book Is Harder by Sarah Loudin Thomas

My first novel, Miracle in a Dry Season, hit bookshelves in 2014. My fourth novel, The Sound of Rain, hit bookshelves last week. Which means I’m practically a veteran author, right? Ha!

Having several novels in print is a dream come true. Of course, turns out there’s more to it than simply lining books up on the shelf.

People have read and reviewed my books, which is alternately gratifying and horrifying—one-star reviews anyone? While it's SO wonderful to see readers comment on the very themes I hoped were somewhere in those pages between the pretty covers, there are also readers who just don’t LIKE my stories.

Each time I write a novel, there comes a point when I've written, edited, re-edited, and combed through the words to the point that I'm not sure what's in there anymore. And it makes me wonder if I dare turn loose of the story for fear the plot has gotten away from me.

Which is why it can be so hard to relinquish each successive story. I keep wondering if the story communicates what I hope it does. Did I get the message in there? Will readers love the new characters as much as the old ones? Having gotten some feedback on earlier books, I now have an idea about what's appealing to readers. Did I still capture that in the current story?

I didn’t expect these doubts. Which is why I like to get a start on the next story before the current story releases. I want to write the story God places on my heart rather than being influenced by what I think readers want.

And there's the hard part. It's not about me. Each time I let go of a book, I do so knowing I've grown the best book I can from the seed God planted in my heart. I've nurtured and watered and pruned (oh, how I've pruned!). And those glorious lines that might capture people's hearts? If there are any, they're the ones God whispered in my ear. Trying to come up with anything else on my own would be foolish.

So as each deadline approaches, I pry my fingers off the digital pages and hit send. I'd say I give my stories to God except that they’ve always been His. He's just been letting me hold them for a while. And that is more than enough for me.

How do you handle your fears over writing the next book?


Sarah Loudin Thomas grew up on a 100-acre farm in French Creek, WV, the seventh generation to live there. Her Christian fiction is set in West Virginia and celebrates the people, the land, and the heritage of Appalachia. Sarah and her husband Jim now live in the mountains of Western North Carolina with Thistle–the canine equivalent to a personal trainer pushing them to hike, run, and throw sticks. Her fiction has won the Inspy Award, the Selah Award, and has been nominated for the Christian Book Award and the Carol Award.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Writing Truth in Fiction: 3 Questions to Ask By Marie Wells Coutu

As a writer of Christian fiction, I’m trying not to write a sermon, but I do sprinkle “truthlets” throughout my stories, usually through the dialogue of a mentor-type character.
Marie Wells Coutu

But I’m not a theologian, I’ve never taken an academic Bible class, and I don’t want to mislead readers into believing a false gospel. If my heroine learns to understand God’s love for her, how can I be clear that she has to accept the free gift of salvation without sermonizing? Or is it enough that she realizes the great love that God has for her?

Answers to this dilemma are not easy and will vary from book to book and author to author. The story will dictate the depth of doctrine included. We know that most Christian novels today need not include a salvation scene, but finding faith may be the turning point that causes the character to change.

Of course, one way to be certain the truthlets we’re providing in our stories do, in fact, reflect Truth accurately is to ask a pastor or biblical scholar to review the manuscript. I have done that in the past.

But something mentioned by my pastor recently also seems applicable. If my story, or the Truth my character learns, is based on a specific passage of scripture, there are three aspects I can examine. They’re useful for any Bible study, so I thought I would share them:

  • Context: Where is the passage found, and what else is going on in the scriptures around it?
  • Content: What do the verses actually say?
  • Concern: What does the Holy Spirit want this scripture to say to me (or to my character)?

Answering these questions may require studying other resources to find out what commentators have said about the passage. That will help me to stay true to the Word.

More important, however, is praying for answers to the third question, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal the lesson He wants me—and my character—to learn.

With His guidance, I’ll be able to write the story in a way that readers will also learn the Truth my character learns, without feeling they are getting a sermon.

As long as I keep these principles in mind, and seek to write with God’s guidance, I can be assured that my story is consistent with His Truth.

About the Author
The Secret Heart
by Marie Wells Coutu
Marie Wells Coutu retired in 2013 from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. She now spends her time writing fiction—when she’s not busy having fun with her husband or with their four grandchildren. She has written three novels for Write Integrity Press, including the award-winning For Such a Moment and Thirsting for More. Her most recent book, The Secret Heart, released in February. She is working on a historical novel set in western Kentucky, near where she grew up.

Marie is a regular contributor to Seriously Write. For more posts by Marie, click here

Monday, November 13, 2017

Lecture or Consequence—Writers Learning From Failure

by Peter Leavell @PeterLeavell

Todd stared at the woman. She was gorgeous, spunky, and very available. The party could just go away. He was going to talk to her.

He set down his punch, passed coworkers, and approached her.

His confidence was high.

He’d read books, watched videos, taken tests—he was sure he could talk to any woman and get everything he wanted from her. And what did he want? He chuckled. NOT go to an art museum, that was for sure.

All he had to do was—

—Engage her emotions within the first two sentences.
—The first two sentences had to fit into a fourteen second time span.
—By the end of the first sentence, know her personality enough to either throw a flirty statement, intriguing emotional statement, or get her to talk about herself.
—Create contrasting emotions and own both of her emotions by sentence three.
—By the end of the first minute, show a small crack of personal vulnerability.

—By minute two, give hints of his success.

The rest, then, was a matter of talking her into what he wanted from her. 

He sauntered up to her and started the conversation.

Ten minutes later, he was in a café across the way. Alone.

Another woman sat at the table over.

“Long day at work?” she asked and as he nodded, she said, “As if they’re not all long, like that’s normal, no doubt.”

“Got that right.” Todd took a drink of coffee. “Work party, and I just didn’t fit in.”

She lifted her tea cup. “Here’s to not fitting in. And to telling the world just back off.”

He grunted, both assured and confirmed in his melancholy.

“You know,” she said, biting her lip, “I was turned down today for the VP job. You’d think as senior manager, I could walk into a job like that…but politics.”

Hmm, she’s successful, he thought.

Wiki Commons Pic of the Smithsonian
“Hey, after this, I’m going to the art museum, want to come with me?”

“Yeah, sure,” Todd said.

Todd had a vague sense that he’d just been played, but that didn’t matter. He liked her. She made him feel things.

As writers, we read the books, watch the video’s, and take the tests. But as Angela Duckworth says in her book, Grit—The Power of Passion and Perseverance, “Lectures don’t have half the power of consequences.

Todd read books and studied dating, but until he was handed actual consequences, he wasn’t truly learning. He would have never guessed he was being used in the same way he wanted to manipulated someone else.

As a writer, consequences are rejection. We can study until there are no writing theories we haven’t memorized (like no double negatives), but until we send our work to critique groups, contests, or editors, we’re not going to learn what we need to about our writing.

Todd didn’t want to go to an art museum (and I thought Todd was troubled before, now I suggest serious therapy for him—art museums are the best!), but he was manipulated into going anyway. He could have been manipulated into even more, like going back to her place and finding himself without a wallet later. There’s some consequences right there. In this case, the girl he chatted with was a super awesome art enthusiast. You go girl.

And you go, writer. Go make some consequences for yourself and learn something grand!


Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing's Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter's books, research, and family adventures at


Friday, November 10, 2017

Never Give Up by Sylvia Stewart

Sylvia Stewart
Do you experience days when you feel like giving up on writing? Does it sometimes feel like publication is out of reach for you? 

Author Sylvia Stewart shares her writing journey and reminds us that it’s never too late! ~ Dawn

Never Give Up

I began writing when I was about thirty-five—writing for publication, that is. I’ve been writing all my life. I grew up as a missionary kid (MK) in the Belgian Congo—now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Journaling and sending letters home from boarding school was a great way to learn how to pull thoughts together and make them interesting.

My first effort to write for publication happened when we were in missionary service in Malawi, East Africa. I saw a butterfly migration and after doing a little research in an encyclopedia, I wrote a short piece titled “Butterfly Power” that was immediately published in The Pentecostal Evangel.

“Wow,” I said to myself. “That was easy!” However, I learned that writing for publication wasn’t as easy as I had thought. It was two years before I had another article acceptance.

I read many writing instruction books during those formative years as a writer. I also took a correspondence course in Creative Writing (there was no internet then). Living in Africa before the advent of computer technology made it very difficult to connect with editors. However, I continued to send in an article now and then, send letters home to my parents and to journal. Many of my journal entries later became grist for articles.

During our years in Malawi, I began to write a novel for pre-teens. Kondi’s Quest needed 24 years to develop. When we retired from mission assignments in 2001, I was able to join a critique group, which greatly helped Kondi’s Quest mature, and it was published independently in the summer of 2014. Seattle Rayne, Book 1 in the Sweet Romances series, came into print in the fall of that year, and sequels to Kondi’s Quest followed: Kondi’s Joy, in 2015, and Kondi’s Secret in 2016. In October of 2017, Montana Skye, Book 2 in the Sweet Romances series, will first appear in Wonderland Wishes, a boxed set of six brand-new Christmas novellas. Later, it will be published independently.

Becoming a published writer is a journey, and like most journeys, it may take a long time to reach the desired destination—publication. To accomplish God’s purposes in our task may seem wearisome and our success unprofitable. But we won’t reach our goal if we give in to discouragement and despair. I’m still writing and publishing at seventy-seven years of age. So, as Winston Churchill said: 

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” 
“Never give up on something that you can't go a day without thinking about.” 
“Never, never, never give up.”

Loneliness has hovered over Rayne DeMarco’s life ever since leaving East Africa to live on her own in Seattle. Frequent infusions of coffee have neither enlivened her flagging business as a freelance writer nor her social life.  Seattle’s gray winter skies seem to mirror her life.

Then a mama cat with three rambunctious kittens finds a home in her above-the-garage apartment, and a handsome Montana cowboy, Matt Hayes, walks back into her life. Bring in a puppy who needs a little love and you have a Seattle romance that is as sure to warm your heart as the hot coffee Seattleites crave.

Wonderland Wishes

Just released! Sylvia’s Montana Skye is included in the boxed set, Wonderland Wishes—a collection of NEW Christmas romances.

Sylvia Stewart grew up in the Belgian Congo (which later became Zaire and the Democratic Republic of Congo). She spent 21 years as an Assemblies of God missionary in Malawi, East Africa, with her husband, Duane. In 1992, they were asked to go to Ethiopia to found a Bible College. They spent 11 years in Ethiopia doing mostly Bible College ministry. She has published four books since 2011. Kondi’s Quest, Kondi’s Joy and Kondi’s Secret, the Mysteries in Malawi series, were written for pre-teens, but adults find them interesting, too.  Seattle Rayne is Book 1 of the Sweet Romances series. Montana Skye, Book 2, will be published in October 2017.

Learn more and connect with Sylvia here:

Website link:    

Thursday, November 9, 2017

10 Things I learned About Writing from Romancing the Stone by Angela Ruth Strong

1. It’s okay to cry when you write. Sure, my characters are imaginary and the only reason they are in trouble is because I put them in trouble, but their feelings are as real as it gets. Their story has to touch me if it’s ever going to touch anybody else. So I let myself bawl like Joan Wilder as she types “The End.”

2. Hero and heroine must have the same goal but for two very different reasons. Jack and Joan set off to find a telephone when she’s lost in Columbia, but while her goal is to save her kidnapped sister, Jack’s goal is to make some money to buy a boat. This difference will help create the conflict needed to make their adventure exciting and unpredictable.

3. Break stereotypes. When captured by Columbians with guns, Jack says, “Write us out of this one, Joan Wilder.” At which point the Columbians get excited because they are Joan Wilder’s biggest fans. Veering away from the expected makes this scene both memorable and humorous and changes the status quo, turning Joan into the hero rather than Jack. Not only does the viewer see the Columbians differently, but Jack sees Joan differently through this turn of events.

4. Don’t be afraid to take things over the top. I’ve never been afraid of this. I’m usually wondering if I’ve gone too far. But then I watch a movie like this one where nobody is ever simply talking over coffee in a coffee shop. Even the first kiss comes in the midst of dancing and lively music and colorful lanterns. And that’s one of the reasons it often gets voted as “best first kiss.”

5. Chemistry is everything. Chemistry is the other reason the kiss between Jack and Joan is memorable. But you don’t have to be writing romance for your characters to zing dialog back and forth and feed off each other’s energy and become more themselves around each other than around anyone else. Even Danny DeVito yelling at “Ira” brings the story to life.

6. Dialog should reveal character. For example, who could forget the time Jack chopped the heels off Joan’s shoes with a machete? She complains, “Those were Italian,” and he counters, “Now they’re practical.” Their values are displayed in a witty way.

7. Humor lightens up a dark story. Sure there are drugs and kidnapping and guns in Romancing the Stone, but it’s all in fun. Viewers aren’t on the edge of their seat with fear but with laughter. They get a break from reality with an adventure that includes awkward landings after sliding into muddy ravines and screaming as the heroine swings on a vine. It can help viewers learn to laugh at their own problems, as well.

8. Heroine finds her strength. While Joan thinks she needs the guy to save her, she’s really the one to save him, and through learning to work together, they not only obtain both their goals but become better people in the process. In contrast to the books Joan wrote where the hero rode to her rescue, she pretty much killed the bad guy single handedly. Her life becomes better than a romance novel.

9. Tie the ending to the beginning. If you never noticed, the boat Jack gets at the end of the story is named after the heroine of the story Joan is writing about in the beginning. I love doing this as an author. I tie it all up and also include what could be considered inside jokes with the reader—things they will only get if they were paying attention. Or things that will want to make them read it all over again.

10. There are no new ideas under the sun. Okay, King Solomon said this first, but Romancing the Stone is a good example of this. When it released, many claimed it was a knockoff of Indiana Jones, which had been produced first, but in fact, the script had been written five years before Raiders of the Lost Ark released. No matter what I write, it’s probably been done before, but I can still use my own voice to make it fresh and fun and memorable and relevant.

Bonus: Don’t let anyone stop you from believing in yourself. The author of the book Romancing the Stone quit writing when a college professor agreed to only pass her if she gave up her passion. The film’s director lost a job directing another film because the studio thought Romancing the Stone was going to be a flop. They were both considered failures for a time, but they did what they loved anyway and found an audience who loved it as well.

Raised in the West Indies, Jacqueline James is on the verge of becoming a modern day princess until the prince hires a P.I. to do a background check and discovers her father is a fugitive from the States. Determined not to let her fairy tale fall apart, Jacqueline hires the P.I. to help her prove her father's innocence. 

When former police officer Beau Ryan's wife's murderer was acquitted, he left Miami on what would have been their anniversary cruise, planning never to return. It's his unexpected soft spot for Jacqueline that has him swallowing down the pain to face his past.

Together they elude press, bounty hunters, and the Miami P.D., searching for the truth needed to free Jacqueline to marry a monarch. Will Beau be able to save the woman he loves this time around? And if so, how will being her knight in shining armor compare with a proposal from Prince Charming?

Angela Ruth Strong studied journalism at the University of Oregon and published her first novel, Love Finds You in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2010. With movie producers interested in her book, she's rereleased it as part of a new series titled Resort to Love, and she's excited to be writing for Love Inspired Suspense, as well. Though if you like a little comedy with your adventure, you'll love her latest release, The Princess and the P.I. This Idaho Top Author and Cascade Award winner also started IDAhope Writers to encourage other aspiring authors. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband and three teenagers where she teaches yoga and works as a ticket agent for an airline when not writing. She'd love to have you visit her at