Thursday, October 14, 2021

Getting Ready For New Publication

Deborah Sprinkle

Deborah Sprinkle's  book Death Of An Imposter was released in 2020.

About a rookie detective Bernadette Santos and her first murder case. Will her desire for justice end up breaking her heart? Or worse—get her killed!

DiAnn Mills, Christy Award Winner, said, "Deborah Sprinkle has masterfully created a rollercoaster ride. Destination: to end a murder spree."

     Don't miss her new book in the series, Trouble Valley, Silence Can Be Deadly.



                                                           NOVEMBER 2021

                            Deborah Sprinkle's new book, Silence Can Be Deadly!

And here is a post Deborah wrote for Suite T in October, 2019 giving writers advice

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Have You Used Advice In Writing?

Susan Reichert

Sometimes it may be easy for us to forget that writing is a craft, and as with any craft, it takes practice, work, and study, particularly if we want to be good.

We are fortunate that we have successful authors who were willing to pass down to us not only good advice, but also important information that would help guide our writing paths.

It always helps me when I am needing a boost in my own writing to go back and look at some of these pieces of nuggets left to us from those who went before and succeeded.

One of my favorite quotes that brings me into the reality of writing is by Benjamin Franklin. He said, "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." This quote helps me realize we all have something to say. If you look back over your life or families lives, you will find something to write about that is worthwhile.

Another piece of advice I have always appreciated, as I am sure many writers will, is what Saul Bellows said, “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write." For those who are not familiar with his work, he his best known for Henderson the Rain King and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1976 as well as the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1976. There have been times I get up during the night, and words will flow to the pages. And when I go back the next day and read them, I don’t have to change anything. I am sure you have experienced this too.

I guess if I had to choose my most favorite quote it would be what Robert Frost said, "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader." As writers when we go back and read that first draft, if it does not stir emotions in us, we can bet our readers will not feel any emotions either. To me this is a sure sign I need to rethink what I am writing. I may need to change some of the story, or I may need to throw it in the trash and start over.

William Faulkner said, "Read, read, read. Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window." This is truly good advice. Over the years I have heard my people who are putting their words to paper, hoping someday to be published tell me, “I don’t like to read.” Or here is one I have heard a lot, “I don’t have time to read.” To me reading books is like going to college to get your master’s degree in creative writing. I get to see what worked for each author; how they used dialogues; handle their settings, developed their characters; created the magic of causing their readers to turn the page. Plus was entertained along the way.

Margaret Atwood said it best, "A word after a word after a word is power."

Susan Reichert, author of Listen Close, Between Me and You, God’s Prayer Power and Storms in Life. Published numerous magazine articles and stories in 9 anthology books. Speaker at writing conferences, seminars, and libraries.

She is the founder of Southern Author Services, and Editor of Suite T. She is the retired Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine. Reichert has a passion for writing about God in devotionals, prayers, and inspirational works.

She and her husband live in Tennessee. They have four grown daughters with families of their own. Susan is a member of the DAR and a member of the First Families of Mississippi

Visit Susan at:,, , Amazon -

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Creating Her Own Special Branding

Betsy St. Amant

If you’re an author (or even an avid reader), you have probably heard of the term “branding”. Publishers, editors, and agents want authors to “brand” themselves, which essentially means doing something consistently and giving your readers what they expect.

For example, Colleen Coble writes amazing suspense stories. Sometimes historical, sometimes contemporary, but you can always trust you’re going to get a suspenseful tale with dash of romance and a well-plotted mystery. Or think about Francine Rivers. You know when you open her novels that you’re going to get a story with rich biblical themes and a powerful message of love. Other names, like Frank Peretti, Jaime Jo Wright, and Ted Dekker—well, you know it’s best to shut the curtains and hide under a blanket while you read their work! We would never expect Francine Rivers to write horror novels, or Ted Dekker to whip out an Amish women’s fiction, right? That’s branding.

Over the course of the last several years, I’ve somehow gotten myself branded with bakeries! This is a tad hilarious because I really don’t cook or bake well. (My middle-school daughter, on the other hand, is a genius in the kitchen!) It all started with my 2014 novel All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes, where a cupcake baker is trapped making the same boring flavors day in and day out. It’s a friends-to-more romance that heats up when the heroine’s best guy friend enrolls her in a national baking reality show. This was followed by a novella called Love Takes the Cake. In that one, a wedding cake chef who is “always the baker, never the bride” falls for the best man at a wedding she’s catering.

After that, I wrote the The Key To Love, which features a romantic pastry chef named Bri who manages a Parisian bakery in a tiny town in Kansas. The bakery goes viral for their matchmaking schemes, and Bri is stuck having to impress a scorned travel writer, Gerard, in order to save her dreams. That story includes plenty of macarons and petit fours, and I might have gained a few pounds while writing it!

So, when I first started brainstorming the next book in my contract with Revell, I wanted to get out of my (bakery) box a little, but still give my readers what they expected—a fun romance, with humor and deep characterization and yummy snacks. My editor pointed out there never seemed to be any food trucks in Christian fiction, and I was immediately intrigued. Here was a way to step outside the kitchen and do something fresh! I was so excited to get started.

But writing Tacos for Two in the middle of a world-wide pandemic was exciting in a much-different-than-expected kind of way. All my grand plans of touring a local food truck and getting the inside scoop on the ins and outs of the mobile food industry disintegrated faster than you could say “cheese”. (Or COVID-19!)

For me, Tacos for Two is an achievement over and above my other novels. This book took so much more focus and effort. It was hard, honestly. And not because I didn’t love the story, but rather, because writing under duress is a game-changer. There was anxiety and fear over the state of the world in general that I was constantly battling with prayer and Scriptures. There was homeschooling a fourth grader and a seventh grader for the first time, all while working a day job from home and attempting to meet my novel deadline. (I haven’t even mentioned my devotional-writing and freelance editing side-gigs!)

Top all those pressures off with an extensive revision letter from my editor, during an already emotionally volatile time, and well—it’s a wonder I didn’t collapse. I remember getting the revision suggestions from my editor and riding that initial wave of feeling massively overwhelmed. Then, I took a deep breath and reminded myself of something that had proven true during former hard moments in life: “take one step at a time”. I trusted the book would be all the better for the extra work. (And it was—my editor is brilliant!) I simply had to dive in, one line at a time, and shape the book into what it needed to be. Just like I was learning with everything else in a pandemic world—looking too far ahead brought anxiety but looking at the very next thing that needed to be done brought peace and accomplishment.

In hindsight, I think Tacos for Two contains all the emotions that were poured into it. (Along with the extra cilantro!) Humor (because hey, if I didn’t laugh, I would cry, right?), my character’s deep need for connection (via an online dating app), fear of things changing (along with the fear of them never changing!), high stakes (you’ll have to read to see!), pressure under deadline (the food truck cook-off!) and of course, romance.

While there were definitely a few times I wished I had the house to myself, I was very grateful at the end of each day to have my family, quarantined or not. There was a time in my life where it would have been just me—a single mom—and my young daughter figuring things out alone in that unknown season. But because of God’s grace, I made it through the pandemic and my deadline with the support of a loving husband—who thankfully didn’t seem to mind a lot of leftovers and unvacuumed carpets!

I think Jude and Rory, the hero and heroine of Tacos for Two, are highly relatable characters for readers during this unprecedented time we’re all still figuring out. They, too, had to navigate uncertainty, anxieties, unknown futures, and pressures they would have never chosen. Along the way, they discover truths about themselves, create some delicious cuisine (and burn a few things!), and learn important lessons about forgiveness, second chances… and that sometimes love really does begin in the kitchen!

Betsy St. Amant is the author of more than fifteen inspirational romances, including The Key to Love, and a frequent contributor to She lives in north Louisiana with her husband, two daughters, a collection of Austen novels, and an impressive stash of pickle-flavored Pringles. When she’s not composing her next book or trying to prove unicorns are real, Betsy can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white chocolate mocha—no whip. Learn more at

Monday, October 11, 2021

The Largeness of Love Stories

Angela Ruth Strong

I’d just sold my first book, Love Finds You in Sun Valley, when my first husband left me. I had to write the romance novel as my own marriage fell apart. After that, I didn’t want to write romances anymore. They seemed like fairytales. I didn’t feel lovable. There didn’t seem to be any healthy single men in the world anyway. And I had trouble believing happily ever after could exist.

After I met Mr. Strong, and love changed my life, I wanted to write romance again, but I wanted to write the kind that educates women on healthy relationships. I am now sharing what I’ve learned about marriage in a fun and entertaining way so my readers can make better decisions than I’d once made.

While healing from my own heartbreak, I read about the seven heart issues that destroy relationships: selfishness, pride, anger, jealousy, laziness, fear, and the evil heart. Author Leslie Vernick compares heart issues to a bottle of water that looks clear until it’s shaken, and that’s when the sediment on the bottom rises up and makes everything icky. In the same way, when our lives our shaken up, the ickyness in our hearts arise even though we’d appeared pure in heart before. I decided to write characters dealing with specific heart issues.

In my latest romantic comedy, Husband Auditions, I wrote a lazy (but lovable) hero named Kai. You don’t see many lazy heroes in Christian fiction, but you do see them in real life. And I know many women struggle with loving a man who won’t put in the effort to love her back.

So I countered Kai’s laziness with Meri’s fear. While Kai doesn’t want to get married because it will take too much work on his part, Meri is afraid of never getting married. So what happens when they fall in love?

The lesson they both learn through Husband Auditions will pertain to anyone no matter what kind of heart issue you deal with. And the lesson is this: Don’t choose bad love over no love at all.

In a healthy relationship, we can’t take shortcuts. We can’t step into the other person’s darkness just to be together. We have to value ourselves and value them enough to want what’s best for them. So we choose to step into the light, inviting the other person to join us and knowing that if they don’t (and we lose that relationship), we are still worth loving.

The flip side is true, as well. When someone sets a boundary with us, we shouldn’t take that as rejection and walk away. We value them enough to acknowledge our flaws, learn from our mistakes, and work toward reconciliation.

In my life, that looked like my first husband having multiple affairs then saying, “The only way I see our marriage working is if we move to a new town.” I wanted to keep my marriage, and I didn’t mind moving, but I didn’t think a move could be what saved us. Had we moved, I would have been isolated from support, and his adulterous past would have been kept a secret. It would have been stepping into darkness. So I responded, “I’m only moving if God tells me to move.” Which was not the answer he wanted to hear.

Later I thought, I could have saved my marriage if I’d moved. But what kind of marriage would I have been saving? Would that have been the healthiest thing for either of us? Would it have lasted, or would it have been laying sod over toxic waste?

No. I stayed in the light. I was willing to work on our relationship, but I wasn’t willing to do his work for him.

This is a hard lesson to learn. And it hurts on both sides. But hurt is different from harm. It’s like the chemotherapy I went through last year. It hurt, but it killed the breast cancer that would have harmed me.

So, whether you are currently in a struggling relationship or looking for the right person to commit to, my advice comes from the words of Jesus in The Message translation of Matthew 19:12 that I also quoted in Husband Auditions. If you are capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it.

Husband Auditions is not your typical rom-com. Yes, it’s romantic, and yes, it’s funny. But some readers hated the ending. I’m okay with that though because I know it’s exactly what other readers needed.

And perhaps it’s not a romance at all. Perhaps it’s a love story where God is the hero. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll write you all a sequel.

Friday, October 8, 2021

New Fiction Releases for October


John Grisham The Judge's List:The Whistler Book 2 (releases October 19)
Nonstop suspense from the #1 New York Times bestselling author: Investigator Lacy Stoltz follows the trail of a serial killer, and closes in on a shocking suspect—a sitting judge.

Danielle Steel      The Butler (released October 5)
Two different worlds and two very different lives collide in Paris in this captivating novel by Danielle Steel.

Kat Martin       The Last Goodnight (releases October 26)
With the first in a brand new, high-octane romantic thriller series, New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin stirs up a hornet's next of lies, adultery and murder as a betrayed husband and a private detective investigate his estranged wife's disappearance.

Karen Kingsbury     Forgiving Paris (releases October 26)
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of life-changing fiction returns with a wise and worldly novel of forgiveness and hope in the City of Lights.

Lee Child/Andrew Child    Better Off Dead: A Jack Reacher Novel (releases October 26)
Jack Reacher is back in a brand-new page-turning thriller from acclaimed #1 bestselling authors Lee Child and Andrew Child.

Stuart Woods  Foul Play:A Stone Barrington Novel (Releases October 5)In the latest action-packed thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Stuart Woods, Stone Barrington faces down a persistent rival.

What do four out of these six new releases have in common?

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Fresh Start

Darlene L.Turner

Every writer loves to type “THE END” on their latest work-in-progress, but that dreaded flashing cursor on a blank “Chapter One” page sends tremors down our spines. Can I get an Amen? However, starting a new manuscript doesn’t have to be daunting. Authors can make it fun. How, you ask? Here’s an overview of my writing process.

Storyline – Before I get too deep into my process, I brainstorm with my author friends on the basic storyline. I determine the main plot, hero and heroine conflicts, and ask that famous “What if” question.

Character sketches – I have to admit, building the characters is my favorite part of the writing process. I love to delve deep into their pasts and find out exactly WHO they are. To do this, I choose their names—first and last. It’s important to me to get it correct. Sometimes I ask for suggestions on social media or browse through an online list of baby names. After I’ve named them, I choose an actor and actress I picture my hero and heroine to look like. I’m all about the visual! Next up—grilling them with a list of questions. What’s their worst fear? Favorite vacation spot? Coffee or tea lover? What happened to them when they were five years old…and the list goes on. This all helps me build their backstory.

Research – After the main storyline is chosen, I create a list of what I need to research. That can be anything from law enforcement duties to medical issues to the town I’m trying to create. It’s important to get the facts straight. Yes, this is fiction, but we still need to keep it believable.

Outline or Not to Outline (that is indeed the question!) – This will depend on whether the writer is a plotter or pantser. When writing for Love Inspired Suspense, you have to include a synopsis, so that is this pantser’s extent of outlining. ;-)

First line – Move that cursor and begin Chapter One. Most writers struggle with that dreaded first line and will probably re-write it ten times. Why? Because they know a reader will either be hooked and buy their book, or put it down. We don’t want readers to set the book back on the shelf, do we?

Write, write, write – Now that I’ve gotten past that first line and paragraph, it’s time to take my hero and heroine on an action-packed adventure filled with switchbacks, surprises, and twists they don’t see coming. To keep me on my deadline track, I add in Scrivener (my writing tool) my end word count and the date I want to finish my draft. Scrivener calculates my word count daily, depending on how much I write on that day. I write until it’s time to type “The End.” After this, the fun begins.

Editing – Most writers have a love-hate relationship with editing. I’m no different. Once I finish the first draft, I print out the entire manuscript and let it sit for a few days. After a break, I read and mark it up with—yes, you guessed it—a red (or maybe pink!) pen. I take many editing passes during this process. First is the storyline—are there any holes that need to be plugged? Then I add in more emotion, search on words I know I repeat too much, then the last pass is through a tool called ProWritingAid. I print the story out again and use the “Speech” option in Scrivener to do another read-through.

Beta Readers – After I’m happy with my story, I send it to a few readers to get their thoughts. They check for typos, story holes, etc. After they’re done, I do another editing pass and read-through before sending to my editor.

I’m almost ready to hit “Send” on book five for Love Inspired Suspense (#feelingblessed). After I do, I’m looking forward to a fresh start on the next manuscript.

Writing full time is a dream come true for me. While the process can be terrifying, I love what I do—creating inspiring stories.

Darlene L. Turner is an award-winning and best-selling author. She lives with her husband, Jeff in Ontario, Canada. Her love of suspense began when she read her first Nancy Drew book. She’s turned that passion into her writing and believes readers will be captured by her plots, inspired by her strong characters, and moved by her inspirational message. 

You can connect with Darlene at where there’s suspense beyond borders.






Instagram: darlenel.turner

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

5 Bestselling Author Friends Collaborate to Publish Holiday Novella Collection

Julie Cantrell

When the pandemic wreaked havoc last year, it didn’t pause to celebrate the holidays. Families were impacted in many ways, with COVID-19 limiting travel, shopping, and gatherings around the globe.


That’s why four author friends and I joined forces to put a little “jingle-jangle joy” back into this Christmas season.

Our goal: to offer a positive, affordable escape and spark a little happiness for our readers.

The result: A novella collection, IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS.


First things first

From the start, we wanted to bring together a team of authors who were kindhearted, hard-working, and passionate about writing for the fun of it.


The five of us had already been collaborating through Her Novel Collective and had developed healthy friendships as a group. Once the idea for this project was tossed into the air, we each came on board and next steps began to develop very quickly.


Teamwork is Key

Of the five writers involved, USA TODAY bestselling author Lynne Gentry had made the leap from her successful career as a traditionally published novelist to working exclusively in the self-publishing arena. As a result, she’d gained tremendous experience with advertising and marketing in the digital space.


We relied on Lynne to guide us through everything from price points to launch strategies to marketing plans, and her knowledge proved invaluable from the start.

“I enjoyed working on this collaborative project and found it to be a stress-free, creative release,” says Gentry. “It’s given us a social network with like-minded peers while also resulting in a collection we can all feel good about sharing with readers.”


Cross-genre author Kelli Stuart also brought self-publishing experience to the table, having kept one foot in the traditional market while releasing her own independent titles. With a list of well-proven resources, she led us to our talented formatter and cover designer Roseanna White and our gifted copyeditor Bethany Hockenbury. We couldn’t have been more pleased with those partnerships, and we all formed new professional relationships as a result.


Our “numbers guru” (and the only one of us who doesn’t think math is a four-letter word), author Allison Pittman became our accountant, managing the backstage details and keeping us all on track financially. (Thank heavens!)


In addition to our roles as authors, Janyre Tromp and I both work as editors, so we tackled the developmental and substantive line edits before Hockenbury took over for copyedits and proofreading.


“It was an honor to work with these amazing writers, both as a fellow author and an editor,” says Tromp, whose role as editor with Kregel Publications also equipped her with the skills to steer us through the production stages of this project.


With reluctance, I also took on the title of Ms. Bossy Pants to keep the project moving forward at every turn. Sigh … somebody must do it. In this role, I scheduled meetings, offered gentle reminders, and did a lot of cheerleading to maintain momentum for the team. (I tried not to be too bossy.)


Like magic, everything fell into place seamlessly, and we were all excited when novelist Susie Finkbeiner offered to write the foreword.


A uniting theme

We did overcome one major challenge at the onset: we each have established readerships across different genres.


Most collections focus on a very specific niche—small town romance, medical suspense, urban thrillers, etc. But we each bring such diverse views and interests to the page, we wanted to see what could happen if the theme allowed us room to play.


After brainstorming holiday traditions, we settled on the topic of film. “There are few things more unifying and joyous than cherished Christmas movies,” Stuart says.


Pittman agrees: “We've all become used to the Hallmark Christmas movies taking over the season, but the art of the Christmas-themed drama has been around since long before the greeting card company dominated our small screens. It's a Wonderful Life and Remember the Night hearken back to classic Hollywood films.”


Gentry also felt sentimental ties to old films. “It finally feels like Christmas when some of my favorite movies start to play,” she says. “Watching classics like Miracle on 34th Street and White Christmas always launches me into the holiday spirit with hope and a smile.”


Stuart sums it up, saying, “Amidst the continued uncertainty of the world, we’re all looking for comforting, healthy ways to escape. Nothing works better than a film or story.”

Pulling it all together

Once we settled on classic holiday films, we each took that spark and let it lead us anywhere it wanted to take us. The result? An eclectic collection that includes everything from a Nutcracker inspired fairytale to a charming romance set in a Michigan castle to three heartwarming stories that take place right here in the south (can I get a hallelujah?!).


While I’d intended to stem my novella from It’s a Wonderful Life, the muse steered me toward the most unexpected of choices—National Lampoon’s Family Vacation! My 30,000-word novella doesn’t parallel the classic John Hughes’ film and it isn’t an adaptation, but it does explore similar themes by focusing on a quirky family with all sorts of differences and modern-day complexities. Then we see what happens when they dare to come together for the holidays.


The spirit of Christmas

“I love the variety in the collection and hope readers will enjoy exploring stories that may be different from what they typically read,” Tromp says.


“Yes,” echoes Pittman. “We hope we’ve succeeded at delivering something for everyone.’


Regardless of faith, age, or story preferences, we want readers to find a little holiday happiness between these pages, and we hope this book leads to a WONDERFUL Christmas for all.

Julie Cantrell is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author whose work can be found at: Connect with all five authors (and more) at HER NOVEL COLLECTIVE

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Researching During a Pandemic

Regina Scott

Every book takes research. Even memoirs might require the author to dig into the historical milieu of the era that shaped their views and customs. As a writer of historical fiction, I prefer hands on research—museums, re-enactments, and recreations of the times—followed by first-hand accounts of people living in that period. You can imagine my excitement when my editor agreed to a proposal highlighting one of the first women to climb Mt. Rainier. The gates of the national park are 45 minutes from my front door, and the riches of the Washington State Historical Society archives are 30 minutes in the other direction.

And none of that was available during the pandemic!

Every library was closed, every museum shuttered. Even the park closed for a time. What’s a writer to do?

Rely on the work of trusted others:

Google books and original sources. Anyone can put anything up on the internet, and I for one am thankful! Google has digitized a number of books spanning history, commerce, and the sciences. So have some universities. For example, the University of Michigan Library digitized the Illustrated Guide Book to Mount Tacoma, Piece County, Washington, which was published the exact month and year my heroine makes her historic climb. It included not only the route from Tacoma to Rainier (called Mt. Tacoma by some at that time), but where to stay along the way and which route to take to reach the summit safely. It also included a set of advertisements for local businesses offering to sell climbing gear, host visitors, and develop photographs. A goldmine!

Online collections. Likewise, many museums and universities have made photographs and photographic reproductions of their artifacts available online. I was able to find photographs of the major streets in my characters’ home city at the time the story was set. I was shocked to find them lined with telephone poles! When my production editor questioned the use of telephones in the story, I was able to prove they did indeed exist.

Tomes by recognized experts. If there is an obscure happening in history, someone somewhere has likely written about it. Digging deeper into scholarly works, I discovered a book on the financial Panic of 1893 and how it affected Washington State specifically. I also located a wealth of information on the Suffrage Movement in the Pacific Northwest.

Reference librarians. Though sometimes harder to find now, specialty librarians may be part of some library systems. I was thankful to reach one in at our State Library, who confirmed the location of a historical figure I wanted to use in the book. Another librarian was able to confirm that there were no suffrage societies in Tacoma at the time, so I was safe to create my own.

We live in a time of great wealth of information. Sometimes it just takes a little thinking outside the box to dig out that information and enrich your writing.

Award-winning author Regina Scott is the author of more than 50 works of warm, witty historical fiction including A Distance Too Grand and Nothing Short of Wondrous. Her writing has won praise from Booklist and Library Journal, and she was twice awarded the

prestigious RT Book Reviews best book of the year in her category. A devotee of

history, she has learned to fence, driven four-in-hand, and sailed on a tall ship, all in

the name of research. She and her husband of 30 years live south of Tacoma,

Washington, on the way to Mt. Rainier. Her latest release, A View Most Glorious, features a headstrong beauty who must rely on a rough mountain guide to get her to the top of Mt. Rainier so she can bring attention to women’s suffrage and avoid marrying the man her mother chose. But her mountain man has hidden potential—and so, she discovers, does their future together.

You can find Regina online at



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Monday, October 4, 2021

The Chapter Checklist

Irene Hannon

Every writer knows there is no one right way to write a book. It’s a process unique to each author. While one may procrastinate, then use deadline-producing adrenaline to race to the finish, another maps out their schedule with precise daily or weekly word counts and builds in time to coast to the deadline. Whatever works for you is the right way.

But when it comes to polishing writing—a more mechanical than creative process—there are some general guidelines that can work for every author. And an amazing amount of creativity can creep in at this stage, too.

One polishing techniques that has worked well for me is the chapter checklist. I’m in the weekly-word-count-coast-to-the-finish camp, and I write polished drafts. That means I have a master document (the polished manuscript), and no chapter gets moved into it until it’s “done.” At the end, I have a finished book, ready to turn in with only a final read-through for smoothing and minor editing.

The chapter checklist helps me achieve this painless finish. Before I move a chapter into the master document, I give it a rigorous going over. Here’s what’s on my checklist:

1. Do a global search for overused words. This list is personal for every author, but we all have pet words that creep into our writing far too often. My list has grown over the years and is now much too long, making the process tedious—but by searching out these words and finding alternatives, my writing stays fresher and less repetitive.

2. Cut adverbs. I again use global search to do this, putting ly in the search box. Many authors fall into the trap of using too many adverbs—which don’t make for the strongest writing. My rule is no more than two per manuscript page…and in general, I have one—or less.

3. Skim through the chapter and check the first word in every paragraph. It’s easy to become repetitive here—e.g., using too many he, she, first names, etc. Vary paragraph openings with different parts of speech. My basic rule is that no two sequential paragraphs should start with the same word—dialogue being the exception.

4. Run spell check. This is my last step before deeming a chapter ready to move into the master document.

If you’re a writer who writes the whole book in one fell swoop and later goes back to clean it up, this exercise is still worthwhile. But it’s less overwhelming if you do it chapter by chapter.

And you’ll be amazed how much of a luster this puts on your work.

Irene Hannon is the bestselling author of more than sixty novels, including the long-running Hope Harbor series, as well as Point of Danger and the Code of Honor, Private Justice, and Men of Valor suspense series, among others.
Her books have been honored with three coveted RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America, and she is a member of that organization’s elite Hall of
Fame. Her many other awards include National Readers’ Choice, Daphne du Maurier, Retailers’ Choice, Booksellers’ Best, Carol, and Reviewers’ Choice from RT Book Reviews magazine, which also honored her with a Career
Achievement Award for her entire body of work. In addition, she is a two-time Christy Award finalist.

Learn more at

Friday, October 1, 2021

Does Your Book Have Ripple Effects?

Susan Reichert

When a writer puts words to paper, those thoughts are like the “rocks” we fling out into the water that cause ripple effects. The ripples just keep enlarging.

Writers have opportunities to influence the reader.

We never know who is going to read something we’ve written. For the most part, we never know the influence the words may or may not have.

I like to think a writer’s words impact readers. At least I hope they do. Edward Bulwer-Lytton coined these words, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” I believe that to be true.

Perhaps it is more important than we first thought to know who our audience is as we write our books.

Whether we write inspirational or cozy mysteries, historical fiction or contemporary romance or other genre’s do we write them with a purpose in mind? Do we write a message in the story?

Let us not forget how powerful words can be.

What is the impact we wish for our book to have on the reader?

If it is an inspirational book, we would want the reader to know if they are going through hard times to know they can get through the storms that come into their lives. That it isn’t hopeless.

If it is a mystery, what message would we want to show? Maybe, how the right way is the best way after all and that the bad are caught and justice can prevail.

Do we not want something important for our reader to take away from reading the book? After all that is what makes our books memorable. That is what brings the reader back to read other books we write. That is also what causes the ripple effect, they like it, and they tell others about it.

I still remember books I read as a kid. They had an impact on my life and my thinking.

For sure we want readers to enjoy reading our books. We hope they will mean something to the reader, and they will remember them and tell others how much they book meant to them.

I know for me, (I write devotional and inspirational books) I believe God gives me the words to write for the person who would read my book. Words they would need at that particular time.

I call that writing with a purpose!

Susan Reichert, author of Listen Close, Between Me and You, God’s Prayer Power and Storms in Life. Published numerous magazine articles and stories in 9 anthology books. Speaker at writing conferences, seminars, and libraries.

She is the founder of Southern Author Services, and Editor of Suite T. She is the retired Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine. Reichert has a passion for writing about God in devotionals, prayers, and inspirational works.

She and her husband live in Tennessee. They have four grown daughters with families of their own. Susan is a member of the DAR and a member of the First Families of Mississippi

Visit Susan at:,, , Amazon -

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

What About Reading Poetry?

 Sara M. Robinson

Do poets read others’ poetry with the same enthusiasm as reading their own? Why should we read poetry? Do these questions seem trite to you? They are not meant to be. You might be surprised to learn that many poets do not read poetry. They may read other genres or journals or digital files, I don’t know. But I have come across poets who tell me that they don’t read much poetry. And I ask them why? The response is mostly about time, or lack of it to read. Some offer up that a lot of the poetry now seems to be on themes that are not interesting to them or even relevant to what they are writing.

It’s funny, as in peculiar, to me that writers of particular genres may not read others in that same arena. I don’t think this is an isolated situation either. I think more and more writers are scarce in time and find they have to pick what they do. Do you agree? I wonder if going to a reading would inspire more interest in reading poetry. But now we have to deal with the upsurge in covid-related illness and the growing threat of more isolation. For me this means I will turn more to poetry to read.

To read poetry, is to learn. I have not stopped learning. To read poetry, is to live. I have not stopped living. To read poetry, is to experience language in the most incredible ways. I want to embrace language. To read poetry, is to be reassured that all can be good in the world. I want to see and feel better. To read poetry, is to connect with people of all ethnicities. I want to know these people. To read poetry, is to celebrate an art form that is ageless. I love to celebrate.

Did you know that after 9/11 poetry sales rose? To read poetry, is to offer solace, give succor to those around us. To read poetry in the aftermath of a catastrophe and create a “wellness” is to offer a kind of peace, a kind of rest. We can find in poetry a path to our own acceptance and strengthening of our personal resolve to be a greater person. Maybe a greater poet.

So, yes, we must read poetry. Poets can be everything and everyone. Poets write poems for everyone, even though poets write for themselves. When a book of poetry arrives in my mail, I open the package slowly, knowing that a treasure is within. The late Mary Oliver had a poem, “Humility.” Poems arrive ready to begin.// Poets are only the transportation.”

Find a poetry book and begin.

Until next time…

Sara M. Robinson, founder of the Lonesome Mountain Pro(s)e Writers’ Workshop, and former Instructor of a course on Contemporary American Poets at UVA-OLLI, was poetry columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and inagural poetry editor for Virginia Literary Journal. She has served as guest lecturer at UVA’s College at Wise, Wise, VA. Her poetry has appeared in various anthologies, including We Grew Wings and Flew (2014), Scratching Against the Fabric (2015), Virginia Writer’s Club Centennial Anthology (2017), Blue Ridge Anthologies and Mizmor Anthology (2018). Journals include: Loch Raven Review, The Virginia Literary Journal, vox poetica, Jimson Weed, Whisky Advocate, and Poetica. She is poet and author of Love Always, Hobby and Jessie (2009), Two Little Girls in a Wading Pool (2012), A Cruise in Rare Waters (2013 Stones for Words (2014), Sometimes the Little Town (2016), a finalist for the Poetry Society of Virginia’s 2017 Book Award. In 2019, Needville, her poetry about effects of coal mining on SW Virginia was released and in 2020 debuted as play in Charlottesville. Her most recent publication is Simple River (2020, Cyberwit).


Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Mad Lib Fun

Heidi Gray McGill

We all know reviews do more than encourage authors yet writing a review can be daunting. Many people prefer not to leave one because they may not feel they write well enough or know what to say.

If you fall into that category…here’s a fun way to make it easy to write a review.

Directions: Choose the word(s) that best fits in the blank:

I __verb___ this book! (Loved, enjoyed, adored, treasured, devoured)

The characters were ___adjective__. (Entertaining, delightful, wonderful, amusing, charming, real)

_____Name_____ was my favorite character because _____________________________.

©Author Heidi Gray McGill 2021

The story was ___adjective__. (Engaging, captivating, sweet, uplifting, inspiring)

I will ____adverb_____ (gladly, heartily, definitely) recommend this book to my friends.

I really hope the author writes more books in this series, because ________________. (I want to know more about a certain character, these characters feel like family, I must know what happens to ___name___)

I look forward to reading more books by this author because ____________________________. (I enjoy her writing style; I love the way she reveals the spiritual side of her characters; she ties true, historical events to her storyline.)

See? That was fun!! AND easy!

You don’t have to match the author’s writing skills when leaving a review. A couple of sentences do the trick! If you have read a book recently and haven’t yet left a review, please encourage an author today and submit your completed review on Amazon and other online retailers or sites you frequent. You’ll make someone’s day!

©Author Heidi Gray McGill 2021

Heidi Gray McGill loves to travel, especially to foreign lands, even though she speaks no foreign language. She embraces the culture, the food, and even the inconveniences that come with adventure.

Her thirst for adventure plays out in her writing. If she can’t visit in person, especially in during the Covid-19 Crisis, why not visit in her mind, and eventually in writing? Wh
en mishaps are shared in her stories, a slightly tweaked personal incident could be possible, although she will most likely deny all reference to reality.

In addition to writing, Heidi is the founder and Director of an English as a Second Language Program in her hometown. She is an ESL certified teacher and enjoys providing opportunities for non-native speakers to learn English and of God’s love.

Heidi lives out daily her favorite Bible verse, 1 Samuel 1:18 “[Hannah] said, ‘May your servant find favor in your eyes.’ Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.” Heidi identifies with Hannah, believing we each choose to be joyful in our hearts, no matter our circumstances. She also agrees that eating something, especially chocolate, can solve myriad issues.

Heidi has been married for nearly 30 years and lives near Charlotte, NC, where she spends her days having fun with her grandson. When she isn’t playing, you’ll find her cooking, scrapbooking, or writing. She recently released her first book, Desire of My Heart, and her r sequel, With All My Heart released in April of 2021.

Visit Heidi at:

Heidi’s thirst for adventure plays out in her writing.  If she can’t visit in person, why not travel in her mind and eventually in writing?  A slightly tweaked personal incident could be possible when mishaps occur in her stories, although she will most likely deny all reference to reality.  Learn more about Heidi and her books at

To receive the FREE prequel to Heidi’s “Discerning God’s Best” series, please join her newsletter

Heidi interacts with her Reader friends through Facebook and Instagram.

Heidi Gray McGill, Author
Please visit my website

Monday, September 27, 2021

Leave Your Comfort Zone

Audra Jennings

It’s easy to fall into a routine that’s easy and comfortable because it’s what has always been done. But sometimes we need to get pushed out of our comfort zones in order to do the work God really calls us to do. That’s what happens to the members of the Heavenly Hugs Prayer Shawl Ministry in Sharon J. Mondragón’s debut novel, The Unlikely Yarn of the Dragon Lady.

“The spiritual theme of The Unlikely Yarn of the Dragon Lady is going ‘Beyond the Building,’” Mondragón shares. “I want readers to be inspired to step out of their comfort zones of church ministry to reach those outside of church with the love and care of God.”

Mondragon goes on to say, "Much of The Unlikely Yarn of the Dragon Lady was inspired by own experience in a prayer shawl group. Due to a military move, I was the new girl once again, and I joined my first prayer shawl group in hopes of making friends, but it turned out to be so much more. The ministry met in the café of a local health food store. The pastor wanted us to ply our needles in public, not hidden away in the church building. People often stopped by our table to ask what we were making or to tell us about someone they loved who also knitted or crocheted. We were a warm and comforting presence in that space every week.” 

After Sharon's husband’s retirement, they moved again, and she is now the facilitator of her current church’s prayer shawl ministry that meets weekly at a local coffee shop.

Her debut novel is warm and delightful, full of real laughter, grief, and personality. It beautifully illustrates the power of women across generations to reach people for Christ.


Sharon J. Mondragón writes about the place where kindness and courage meet. Her debut novel, The Unlikely Yarn of the Dragon Lady (originally titled The Heavenly Hugs Prayer Shawl Ministry) was the 2017 winner of the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis award in the Short Novel Category, and she has also been recognized by The Saturday Evening Post where her short story, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” was an Honorable Mention Awardee in the 2014 their Great American Fiction Contest. Mondragón has been active in prayer shawl ministry since 2008 and currently serves as facilitator for the prayer shawl ministry at her church, St. Paul Episcopal in Waxahachie, TX. She also knits with the Circle of Healing at Red Oak United Methodist Church. She is a Level 2 Certified Knitting Instructor through the Craft Yarn Council and teaches beginning knitting at a local yarn store. Mondragón is the mother of five grown children and has four grandchildren. After 26 years as an Army wife, she has settled in Midlothian, TX with her hero/husband, her laptop, and her yarn stash.

Visit Sharon Mondragón’s website and blog at and follow her on Facebook (Sherry Mondragón) and Twitter (@SJ_Mondragón).

Friday, September 24, 2021

Here is an Interesting Premise: How Can Thinking Like An Artistic Painter Help a Poet?

Sara Robinson

I have a long-time friend, who in the height of her career was a well-known and highly regarded fashion illustrator. She and I compare notes frequently on techniques for each of our crafts. She wants to write poetry, but I really want to steal some of her ideas. One of my techniques she often brings up is my use of white space. She is intrigued as white space is an essential tool for the artist. I like to think of my white space as an insertion of “pause.” She uses the space more for defining her intended subject. She uses white pigment to create white space while my “writing canvas” is simply left blank.

In some works of art, the artist has created pathos or chaos or poignancy. Think of Van Gogh or Cezanne. In paintings the artist has several ways for expression to not only get a viewer’s attention, but also to invoke an emotional commitment. Since we can’t “write” with colors, texture, or perspective, we must use words to present the same effect. In past columns, I’ve mentioned metaphor and simile as tools. But it all comes down to language. For example, how would you describe a southern mansion, abandoned, in shadows of live oak and Spanish moss? Your decision might be influenced by what emotions you wanted to bring out. Do you want this mansion to be creepy? Or do you want it to be sad? How would you put each into words for a poem?

So, in all this, I’m suggesting that you write as a painter would. Moss, for instance, has a muted green color that is anything but vivid. How does it hang from the trees? Do breezes move the moss in a certain way? Look at the live oak branches. How do they appear? Stately? Forlorn?

Or maybe the branches are still and waiting. As I drive up to this mansion, I see sheer cotton curtains emerge from windows like little thin translucent ghosts escaping the heat.

My friend created an illustration for a play based on my Needville poetry book. It was a coal miner standing in front of a cart of coal. He held a pickaxe on his shoulder. His look was one of stern conviction and accomplishment. I wrote about him in my book that he had to always put on a brave front for his family. Art can give us many ideas to choose from in our writing.

Here is an exercise to consider: Find an illustration and see what you can write about it as a poem. Study it for details that might normally be missed. Your topic might not even have anything to do with the art, but for one little, small detail.

In all your writing, have fun. Write to the end of the page and wrap it around the edge. Like an infinity canvas. A key word or line around the edge could be an interesting surprise.

Sara M. Robinson, founder of the Lonesome Mountain Pro(s)e Writers’ Workshop, and former Instructor of a course on Contemporary American Poets at UVA-OLLI, was poetry columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and inagural poetry editor for Virginia Literary Journal. She has served as guest lecturer at UVA’s College at Wise, Wise, VA. Her poetry has appeared in various anthologies, including We Grew Wings and Flew (2014), Scratching Against the Fabric (2015), Virginia Writer’s Club Centennial Anthology (2017), Blue Ridge Anthologies and Mizmor Anthology (2018). Journals include: Loch Raven Review, The Virginia Literary Journal, vox poetica, Jimson Weed, Whisky Advocate, and Poetica. She is poet and author of Love Always, Hobby and Jessie (2009), Two Little Girls in a Wading Pool (2012), A Cruise in Rare Waters (2013 Stones for Words (2014), Sometimes the Little Town (2016), a finalist for the Poetry Society of Virginia’s 2017 Book Award. In 2019, Needville, her poetry about effects of coal mining on SW Virginia was released and in 2020 debuted as play in Charlottesville. Her most recent publication is Simple River (2020, Cyberwit).

Thursday, September 23, 2021