October 30, 2020

The Story Behind ~The Escape

Lisa Harris

As a reader, I’ve always loved romantic suspense, so when I started writing, choosing this genre was a perfect fit for me. I love the layers involved in creating a novel that reaches deeper than simply solving a crime. It is a process of creating characters with a compelling backstory and romance, as well as building a unique setting around a high-stakes story. I also enjoy knowing that even when everything can’t be tied up in a neat bow at the end, I can still ensure that justice is served and the good guys win. But that doesn’t always mean that the journey to justice is easy, and that certainly holds true for my upcoming novel, The Escape.

The Escape puts two US Marshals in the middle of a dangerous fugitive hunt, but Madison James is also dealing with the death of her husband. It’s been five years since his murder, and she still has no solid leads on who killed him, or who has been sending her one black rose every year on the anniversary of his death. And no idea why this year, a rose was left in her house, on her bed.

October 29, 2020


Kay DiBianca

People occasionally ask me why I chose a watch as the theme of my cozy mystery series. It wasn’t intentional. Perhaps it bubbled up from my subconscious since I’m fascinated with the concept of time, that peculiar dimension that can be a cruel, though always equitable, task master.

Time is a valuable asset that we all own. We can exchange it wisely for a job well done, or we can waste it on foolish endeavors, but we can’t put it in the bank and withdraw it later when we’re ready for more. And despite what our science-fiction-writing friends tell us, time only moves in one direction.

I remember exactly where I was when I decided to write my first novel, The Watch on the Fencepost. I was running in a park while listening to an audiobook in my favorite genre, mystery. I had been listening to the book over several outings, and I came to the conclusion that I could write a story as interesting as the enjoyable one I was hearing through my earbuds.

As I passed by a long fence bordering a pasture, I developed the basic outline for my story. The main character would be a young woman, a runner of course, who would be training for a marathon as a way to cope with the sorrow of her parents’ recent deaths in an automobile accident. During her outing, she would find something left on a fencepost that would pique her curiosity and propel her into a quest to find the truth behind her parents’ untimely deaths.

I don’t recall exactly why I decided a watch would be the artifact she would find on the fencepost, but the idea fit into the mystery. As she gazes at the watch, the main character muses over a quote from one of her English professors who was fond of saying, “With time all things are revealed.” A good premonition for a murder mystery.

As I fleshed out that first novel, I decided the use of a timepiece was a worthy theme, and my husband came up with the title The Watch on the Fencepost. The book includes a series of clues that were left for one purpose, but ended up serving another. The first of these cryptic clues has to do with light, and that was the secondary theme in the book. Of course, mysteries are by definition shrouded in darkness, so the idea of light shining through to reveal the truth intrigued me.

As we neared publication in 2019, I began to work on the plot for a second book in the series entitled Dead Man’s Watch. A watch plays an important part in that story as well. Time is of the essence as the two main characters, Kathryn and Cece, try to prove the innocence of a man accused of murder by finding the real killer. The secondary theme of this book is “determination,” a theme most novel writers are familiar with. Dead Man’s Watch was released in September 2020.

I’m working on the third book in the series now. I’m thinking of doing a little experimentation with the characters in this one, but It will certainly have a timepiece as an important element in the story.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have a theme for your book or series? What made you decide on your theme?

Kay DiBianca is a bestselling author who loves to create literary puzzles for her readers to solve. Her characters come to life as they struggle to solve mysteries and create relationships amidst the ongoing themes of faith and family. Her first novel, The Watch on the Fencepost, won an Illumination Award for General Fiction and an Eric Hoffer Award for Mystery. The second book in the Watch series, Dead Man’s Watch, was released in September 2020.

Kay is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and Sisters in Crime. An avid runner, she can often be found at a nearby track, on the treadmill, or at a large park near her home. Her background in software development fuels her fascination with puzzles and mysteries, and her dedication to running helps supply the endurance and energy she needs to write about them!

Kay and her husband, Frank, live, run, and write in Memphis, Tennessee.

You can connect with Kay through her website at


October 28, 2020

Jealousy and Envy! Character Flaws.

Susan Reichert

Jealousy we find refers to feelings of insecurity, fear, concern of not having possessions. So, we feel this emotion towards others. It usually brings out emotions such as anger, resentment of others, and feelings of inadequacy, just to mention a few.

This feeling comes out of a lack of trust, in life, and in others as breeds insecurity.

Building these traits into one or more characters creates a complexity in the story. We can bring about all sorts of problems for our protagonist to deal with. We get to weave stories around these emotions and show a great way for people to deal with these elements in their own lives.

One story that stands out is Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. It is the scene where Amy, the youngest march sister, goes into a jealous rage because she must stay home while her two elder sisters get to go to the theater. She burns her sister Jo’s manuscript Jo was working on

One of my favorite literature moments of jealousy is in Little Women in which Amy, the youngest March sister, in a jealous rage because she must stay home, and her two eldest sisters go to the theater. Amy’s rage of jealousy causes her to burn her sister Jo’s manuscript while she is at the theater. The one Jo was working on hoping to finish before her father returned home.

Aristotle defined envy as pain at the sight of another’s good fortune.
Most will say Shakespeare’s character, Lago in Othello personifies envy. He constructs an evil plan that has no bounds because of his envy due to Othello promoting Cassio over him. We can see from Shakespeare’s Othello, envy at its worst.

We can see how using these character flaws can create fiction that will keep our readers glued to the stories we write.

While in reali life we do not want these trails in us, when writing stories these flaws can create friction that is much needed.

What other flaws can you think of that one could add to the characters to cause friction?

Susan Reichert is the author of God's Prayer Power, and Storms in Life.

She is the retired creator and publisher of Southern Writers Magazine.

Currently heads Southern Author Services and Suite T and is the founder and President of  Collierville Christian Writers Group. (CCWriters Group)

Susan and her husband live in Tennessee and have four grown daughters.

October 27, 2020

When Opposite Worlds Collide

Mary Alford

Hi everyone, I am Mary Alford here, and I’m happy to be here with you. I’m a Christian Suspense author who also writes Amish Suspense. Both genres spotlight God’s love and forgiveness and I’m am blessed to be able to share God’s wonderous love in a small way.

When you think about the Amish, your mind normally goes to a simpler way of life. Gentle stories of faith and love. Hard work, and a place where the outside Englisch world and its cares are kept at bay.

But happens when you toss in a little suspense into the mix?

October 26, 2020

Bestowing Justice Through Fiction

 Ed Protzel

The South is a fertile landscape for fiction writers. Rich and complex in history, populated by high civilization alongside terrible poverty and subjugation, it’s no wonder I was attracted to the historical South when I set out to write my DarkHorse Trilogy.

The trilogy tells the story of Durksen Hurst, an idealistic abolitionist/hustler/drifter, and his Black friends as they traverse slavery in Mississippi (book 1, The Lies That Bind), serve the Union army in Civil War Missouri (book 2, Honor Among Outcasts), and return to Mississippi after the war to begin their lives anew (book 3, Something in Madness — being released Oct. 23).

But unlike so many Southern writers, the road to creating my DarkHorse Trilogy began on the West Coast when I was writing screenplays in Los Angeles. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

October 23, 2020

Do Editors Fix All Mistakes?

 W. Terry Whalin                @terrywhalin


Among writers in the publishing community, there is a false belief that my submission does not have to be perfect because the editor will fix any mistakes. After all, isn’t that what editors do?

While I’ve been an editor for decades, I’ve also been a writer. I believe it is important for writers to understand some of what editors face. A key responsibility for every editor is to produce the best possible magazine or book for their company. They want every publication to be as excellent as possible. In their search for content, they are looking for the best possible writing for their particular audience. To catch their attention, you want your submission to be a fit for what they need and as enticing as possible.

There is an old yet true saying, “You only get one chance to make a good first impression.” The first impression from your submission is a critical factor. As a writer, you do not want to be missing some crucial element for the editor. The hardest missing element to find with your submission is something that is not there.

Another important element for you to know about editors is many editors are not writers. Yes they write emails or guidelines but they do not write for publication (magazine or books). Their expertise is in management of workflow and excellent editing skills. Also a number of my editor colleagues do not teach workshops at writers’ conference. It is simply not in their skill set. These individuals can recognize excellent writing and can adjust your writing but not create it in the first place which is a different skill.

Recently I spoke with a bestselling author and asked about her forthcoming books. She admitted that she had no forthcoming books because she had not written a book proposal or made a pitch through a query letter. If you want to be published at a magazine or publisher, you have to learn how to craft an enticing book proposal or query letter then be pitching it consistently until you find an editor who is interested. Every magazine and publisher has expectations about what they need. They spell out these expectations in their guidelines which are often on their website. The simple steps are to study their guidelines and what they publish, and then send the editor what they need.

While writing is a creative endeavor, publishing is a business. As you understand the business, marketing and selling aspects of publishing, this information will feed into your submission and you will become more of the type of writer that editors want to work with and publish.

I’ve been in some of the top literary agencies and publishers in the United States, the good news is every one of these professional colleagues are actively looking for quality writing—whether they send you a response or not. Each person is actively reading their email and their physical mail looking for the right fit. If you write what they need, you could be the next person that they publish.

W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in Colorado. A former magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and Billy Graham. Get Terry’s newest book, 10 Publishing Myths for only $10, free shipping and bonuses worth over $200. To help writers catch the attention of editors and agents, Terry wrote his bestselling Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success. Check out his free Ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author. His website is located at: Connect with Terry on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

October 22, 2020

The Genesis of Danger - Part 2

Irene Hannon

. . . continued from Part 1

But what I do know from the beginning with my suspense novels is that the danger level…the impending threat…the sense of menace—and malice…must be omnipresent. It can slink off-screen for a few minutes here and there, but the ominous undercurrents must always ripple just below the surface.

So how did I do that in Point of Danger?

First, let me tell you how I didn’t do it—with a high-action, high-adrenaline storyline in which the characters are in physical danger in almost every chapter. My characters are not shot at, thrown off cliffs, dumped into raging rivers, locked in airless rooms, buried alive, tied up, chased, exposed to fire—you name it—in every chapter.

While there are moments of physical danger in my books, I don’t have a life-threatening event in every scene. For me, psychological suspense is more compelling. Think Alfred Hitchcock versus James Bond. In my books, there’s a steady build to an often-explosive ending.

In Point of Danger, I use three specific technique that are part of my standard tool kit for a suspense novel to keep the danger level front and center.

First, I include multiple points of view in addition to the hero and heroine. I take readers into the heads of several characters, all of whom have a potential motive for wanting Eve gone. So, I keep the audience guessing about who’s behind the threats all the way through the book.

Second, I try to end every scene with a foreshadowing statement. A suggestion that more danger is ahead.

Here’s an example:

“Because confident as she was in her ability to stand up to intimidation, it would be comforting to have someone like Brent in her corner if by chance today’s prank morphed into a much more ominous threat.”

This plants the notion in the readers’ minds that the prank probably will morph into something more ominous—and compels them to keep reading to see what danger lies ahead.

In the next example, the police think they may have found the culprit. Everything fits. But there’s a glitch.

“The crime scenes were clean and there were no witnesses. There was no absolute proof he was their man.

Without that, he could walk.

Meaning Eve’s life could still be in danger.”

Again, I’ve planted a seed of doubt in readers’ minds to induce them to keep reading…and to suggest they shouldn’t let their guard down.

I use the same technique with the romance aspect of the book, raising questions at the end of those scenes that keep the tension high, making readers’ wonder whether Eve and Brent will manage to overcome the personal obstacles that could sabotage their relationship.

So, I use foreshadowing to sustain suspense on two levels—professional and personal—throughout the book

Finally, I choose action verbs that evoke danger whenever possible. My characters freeze…suck in a breath…snatch…bolt…leap…sprint…bound…skid. And that’s just in the first two pages. Powerful, action-oriented verbs can generate a sense of danger faster than anything else.

And that, my friends, is how I generate and sustain suspense in Point of Danger. I hope you’ll give the book a read and see for yourself that it’s possible to create a taut, gripping story without putting physical danger on every page.

Because the scariest place of all is the villain’s mind.

Irene Hannon is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than 50 contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels, including Dangerous Illusions, Hidden Peril, and Dark Ambitions, as well as the Men of Valor, Heroes of Quantico, Guardians of Justice, and Private Justice series. 

In addition to her many other honors, she is a three-time winner of the prestigious RITA Award from Romance Writers of America. She is also a member of RWA’s elite Hall of Fame and has received a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews for her entire
body of work. Each of her suspense novels have been ECPA bestsellers, and her books often appear on the Publishers Weekly bestseller list. 

Learn more at

October 21, 2020

The Genesis of Danger - Part 1

Irene Hannon

On October 6, I’ll launch a new suspense series called Triple Threat, which features three sisters involved in truth-seeking professions who are plunged into dicey situations that lead to danger…and romance.

In Book 1, Point of Danger, radio talk show host Eve Reilly finds a ticking package on her doorstep…left, the police assume, by a disgruntled listener. But she’s not about to buckle to threats. Enter police detective Brent Lange, who isn’t in the market for romance but begins to fall for Eve. As a string of unsettling incidents follows…and multiple people with viable motives take their turn on stage…it becomes clear someone wants her voice silenced—permanently.

I’m guessing it took you less than thirty seconds to read the preceding paragraph.

October 20, 2020

My Book’s Released, Now What?

DiAnn Mills

Our book has been released. Our story or message is available for readers. Lots of marketing and promotion have gone into the book’s journey. Right from the beginning, we planned how to attract others through social media, blog posts, interviews, advertising, and face-to-face events. That’s all great, but now that the launch has passed, we may feel bewildered and questioning ourselves about what to do next.

Is our book’s life over? How can we maintain the launch momentum to attract readers? Is it time to move on to the next project? Are we feeling just a twinge depressed?

Our book may be released, and we will most certainly move on to another project, but we can take steps to keep existing readers loyal and locate our next fan by following a few simple instructions.

First, sending a few thank-you notes, either physical or e-type to those who have helped make your book launch a success: 

1. Send a personal thank-you note to every member of the editorial team. This demonstrates your appreciation and humility. Who do you think the editorial team will recommend as a conscientious and gracious writer?

2. Send a personal thank-you to every member of the sales and marketing team. These people are your unsung heroes. They are on the front lines when bookstores are looking at what to purchase for their customers.

3. Send a personal thank-you and possibly a small gift to every person who endorsed the book. Include those who hosted you at a speaking event and allowed you to sell your books in the back of the room.

4. Send a personal thank-you to every hostess who allowed us to guest blog , hosted a blog tour, recorded a podcast, interviewed us for media, or conducted a virtual event.

5. Send a personal thank-you to every member of the street team who helped publicize your new release via word-of-mouth or social media.

6. Send a personal thank-you to every reviewer. 

Next, identify ways to expand your book’s visibility while giving thought to future reader-fans:

1. If our book is self-published, we can offer a discount.

2. Enlist more reviews.

3. Share behind the scenes interviews and/or research.

4. Offer the first chapter to those who subscribe to a newsletter or blog.

5. Create a contest to fuel interest.

6. Explore new or unique marketing and promotion opportunities.

7. Pitch yourself as an expert on the book’s topic or content.

8. Speak on the book’s topic or content.

9. Continue to seek out guest blogs and podcast interviews.

10.Use social media but adhere to the 80/20 rule where no more than 20% of your posts is for self-promotion.

11. Remember readers want an exceptional read, and the date of publication isn’t necessarily important to them.

12.When a new book is released, backlist books create additional titles for readers to discover and enjoy.

13. Offer giveaways of backlist books when promoting new books.

14. Arrange a Facebook Live topic: Q&A, setting, humorous happenings during the writing or research of the book. 

Our books live on in the hearts and minds of our readers and spark interest for our other books. Write on! Promote on! And always put the reader first. 

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She weaves memorable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn believes every breath of life is someone’s story, so why not capture those moments and create a thrilling adventure? Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Marketing Conference, and the Mountainside Novelist Retreat with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on: Facebook, Twitter, or any of the social media platforms listed at

October 19, 2020

Softly Blows the Bugle

Jan Drexler

When I first started writing the “Amish of Weaver’s Creek” series, I knew the third book would be about Elizabeth Kaufman, and I was curious to see what her life was going to look like at the end of the Civil War.

The War was one of those nation-changing events that shape history. The clash of ideas, ways of life, deeply held beliefs, and religious practice had exploded into a four-year battle that left no community unchanged. Even in her isolated corner of central Ohio, Elizabeth’s life had been touched by the war, leaving her a widow.

October 16, 2020

The Untold Stories of Ancient Rome~Part 2

 Bryan Litfin

Part 2. . .

My book The Conqueror is Roman and Christian but not biblical. That is, it doesn’t take place in the first century AD when Jesus of Nazareth was still within eyewitness memory and his apostles roamed the empire, spreading the good word and saving souls.

Instead, my historical fiction trilogy centers on the rise of “imperial Christianity” in the fourth century AD, when the Roman Empire finally left its persecuting, pagan ways and took its first steps toward being Christian. Emperor Constantine, though not the central protagonist in the story, stands as a consistent symbol for what is happening in the soul of the empire.

The plot follows a Germanic warrior who enters the Roman army as a special forces operative and spy (sort of like an ancient Jason Bourne). Down in Rome, he meets a senator’s daughter who is part of the primitive catholic church. The first novel begins with them as late teenagers, and the third ends with them as thirty-something adults. They work together, fall in love, face trials, endure separation, and have grand adventures—all while learning to trust the one true God as their story unfolds.

Along the way, the plot hits many high points of early church history: Constantine’s solar vision of a cross in the sky; the famous Battle of the Milvian Bridge for control of Rome; the Edict of Milan that ended Christian persecution; the founding of St. Peter’s Basilica by the pope; the formulation of the Nicene Creed to define the Trinity; Constantine’s unification of the empire under Christianity; and his mother Helena’s discovery of the fragments of the True Cross at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

Has any period of history ever contained so many dramatic moments? Certainly in the annals of church history, there was no more pivotal era than the years AD 310–330. This is why I have set my Constantine’s Empire trilogy in these amazing times. There are just too many great stories that demand to be told through the eyes of firsthand participants. As a scholar, I already knew this. Hey, I thought, I should turn this history into a saga that novel-readers would enjoy!

But let me be clear. The point of my novels isn’t to teach, but to entertain. If a reader isn’t breathlessly turning the pages during an action scene or getting a little moisture in the eyes during a poignant scene, I haven’t done my job. Yet readers of historical novels don’t want pure entertainment. They choose the historical genre because they want to learn a little something about the period being described. They want to be swept out of their mundane lives into a valiant age gone by. Whether that era is populated by cavemen, Israelite kings, Viking warriors, or pioneers . . . well, that is up to the individual reader. My hope is that if you like ancient Rome, perhaps The Conqueror is for you. There are a lot more stories to be told beyond the biblical era!

Bryan Litfin is the author of the Chiveis Trilogy, as well as several works of nonfiction, including Early Christian Martyr Stories, After Acts, and Getting to Know the Church Fathers. A former professor of theology at the Moody Bible Institute, Litfin earned his PhD in religious studies from the University of Virginia and his ThM in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He is currently an acquisitions editor for Moody Publishers. He and his wife have two adult children and live in Wheaton, Illinois. Learn more at


October 15, 2020

The Untold Stories of Ancient Rome

 Dr. Bryan M. Litfin

Historical fiction tends to cluster around several well-known eras. Readers know what to expect and they keep coming back to their favorite tropes and themes. Like what? Bonneted lasses on the prairie frontier. Tragic separation in the American Civil War. The Age of Sail with its swashbuckling pirates. Ancient Israel, full of biblical characters. Love and loyalty during World War 2. And on and on. Even the prehistoric era gets treated. Ayla’s saga in Clan of the Cave Bear comes to mind.

            The Roman Empire, of course, also gets its share of coverage. Often these are biblical novels in which the followers of Jesus deal with villains like Titus, Nero, and other toga-clad baddies. The Nobel Prize-winning Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz made this genre popular with his 1896 apostolic epic, Quo Vadis. The book was popular enough to be turned into a 1951 smash movie starring Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr. Later entrants in the Roman biblical genre include Francine Rivers’s Mark of the Lion series, Angela Hunt’s Paul: Apostle of Christ, and a modern re-do of Ben Hur.

            Am I criticizing this Roman sub-genre? Hardly. I’ve written one such novel myself, The Conqueror (Revell), coming out October 2020. It will be followed by two more volumes, each a year apart, to complete the trilogy. As a professional historian and scholar of antiquity, this is an era I know well. I have been researching it in grad school and as a professor for twenty-five years. Historians know a lot about life in the Roman Empire. It was a big, well-organized culture that left behind a lot of textual and material remains. There are many exciting stories to tell from Roman times.

            When I wrote The Conqueror, my question was, Why stick with the first century only? Why focus on just one slice of the pie? What about the other years?

            People don’t usually think of the Roman world as having lasted for 2,200 years, but we could put it that way. Look at that number again. I don’t mean this culture existed 2,200 years ago (though it did). I mean that from its earliest inception to its final demise, more than two millennia passed by. Really?

The traditional founding date of Rome by the twins Romulus and Remus is 753 BC, a date that is approximately correct based on archaeological remains discovered on Rome’s Palatine Hill. The fledgling city grew from a monarchy to a republic, then became an empire under Caesar Augustus around the time of Christ’s birth. Five hundred years later, the so-called barbarians overran the western half, but the eastern half morphed into the Byzantine Empire centered on Constantinople. It lasted until AD 1453 when the Ottoman Turks captured it, bringing the now-Christian empire under Muslim control. The whole span totals 2,206 years. That many eons should offer plenty of fodder to the historical novelist!

. . .see Part 2 tomorrow

Bryan Litfin is the author of the Chiveis Trilogy, as well as several works of nonfiction, including Early Christian Martyr Stories, After Acts, and Getting to Know the Church Fathers. A former professor of theology at the Moody Bible Institute, Litfin earned his PhD in religious studies from the University of Virginia and his ThM in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He is currently an acquisitions editor for Moody Publishers. He and his wife have two adult children and live in Wheaton, Illinois. Learn more at


October 14, 2020

The Key To Love Story (Part 2)

Betsy St. Amant

Continued from Part 1 October 13

. . . is pulled reluctantly into helping Bri save the Pastry Puff, all while attempting to keep a guard up against the charming blonde baker.

An unexpected and painful discovery leads Bri to consider that her parent’s relationship might not have been what she once believed, and slowly, her and Gerard’s roles begin to switch. He’s falling for her as she’s falling out of love with love. Eventually, they both must realize what true love really looks like—and how it so often isn’t what we first think.

This story was easy to write once I got going, but I was interrupted a lot. I fell in love myself during the middle of this story, got engaged, and got married—all in a span of less than a year. Since the book didn’t have a contract yet, I didn’t push myself to get it finished as I adjusted to life as a 30-something-year-old newlywed with a blended family. And that was perfect, because my priorities were exactly where they needed to be for that season. Just like love doesn’t always look like what we expect, neither does God’s timing!

The Lord re-lit the spark for this story inside my heart, and I completed it within a few months. When it was time to pitch to publishers, my agent sent it out, and it didn’t take long for me to get plugged in with Revell. Talk about a happy ending!

I can’t wait for readers to meet Bri and Gerard, the eccentric bakery sisters Mabel and Agnes, and the host of other side characters that are all special to me for different reasons. I was able to include a nod to my beloved former pastor, create a character after my late grandfather, and name a newly engaged character after a dear friend who was at the time, also newly engaged. Being able to tie tiny pieces of real-life into my fiction is one of the biggest joys of writing! I feel like I’m hiding Easter eggs all over my story for those with the inside scoop to find.

If you’re a big fan of romance, a scorned skeptic of love, or a matchmaker aiming Cupid’s arrows all around you, you’ll identify with the characters in The Key To Love. I’d be honored for you to join nosy Mabel and Agnes in the kitchen, breathe in the air scented with macarons and petit fours, and follow Bri and Gerard as they search for identity, knock down illusions, and find love in the delightfully unexpected. 

Betsy St. Amant is the author of more than fifteen inspirational romances 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

October 13, 2020

The Key to Love Story (Part 1)

Betsy St. Amant

My new release, The Key To Love was a long-time brewing! I initially had the idea about five years ago, and in the original concept, the story took place at a fictional bakery in Paris. I wanted to center the story around the lovelock bridge over the Seine. Wouldn’t you know it—right after I started fleshing out the story, Paris shut down the lovelocks. They literally removed them all from the bridge and replaced the links with plates of glass.

At first, I was really annoyed. I thought “Geez, Paris, you couldn’t have waited a few more years?” Ha! Then, as I began to revamp my story, I realized how much better it would be if it were set in small town America, featuring a romance-obsessed heroine who brought a little bit of ol’ Paris to the Midwest. The story blossomed from there.

I also knew I wanted to have an “opposites attract” type trope—and that I wanted their roles to switch halfway through.

October 9, 2020

Advice for Writers ~ Ane Mulligan ~Part 2

 Ane Mulligan

Continued from Thursday ~Advice for Writers . . .

Another Example

Another good example for deepening characterization came from a member of the critique group, Penwrights. He told how after a particular critique, something clicked. Now when his character hears tires on the gravel driveway and looks out the window, she just doesn't simply see the next-door neighbors coming home. She takes note of Jasper, their son. She describes him and even renders her opinion:

He had his father's build, looking like another welterweight boxer, but Jasper had his mother's looks. Fortunate for him.

Being privy to the character's thoughts and opinions, filtered through their past, brings them alive to the reader, making them feel like the character is their friend (or enemy in the case of an antagonist).

Many years ago Ron Benrey taught me his Magic Paragraph. He's included it in his book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Christian Fiction, which I highly recommend. That little bit of advice has a tremendous impact on your writing. It goes like this:

1. Signal which head to enter

2. Twang an appropriate sense, emotion or mental faculty

3. Show appropriate action

4. Repeat if necessary 

Write all your descriptions with purpose. Use it to set a mood, foreshadow an event, or perhaps even be a metaphor of the story question.

Follow the rules. Really?

I often hear writers complain about having to “follow the rules” or guidelines of writing. They see seasoned authors breaking these rules. Here’s what I’ve learned: Storytelling is a talent. Talent is a gift from God with some assembly required. And that entails learning the craft

It’s much like when we first learn to print back in kindergarten. We had paper with large lines...guidelines. We all made our letters the same, straight up and down, first the lower case and then the upper. 

After time, we graduated to cursive. Once again, the paper had guidelines. We slanted the letters at an approximate 45-degree angle, and kept the lowercase letters in the bottom half of the guidelines. It wasn’t until we’d mastered those guidelines that we began to apply our artistic creativity to our signatures.

It’s the same with writing. We must first learn what constitutes good writing, things like point of view, show vs telling, characterization, plot, conflict, etc., before we can understand when and how to break the rules. When you have mastered your craft, you can then know how to do it with panache. 


 A One Sheet - What Is It?

I’m often asked about my “One Sheet” which is a single pitch sheet for a book or series. My critique partners and I spent a lot of time learning how to do a good one. When I had mine requested by an agent to use as an example of a good one, I knew we’d done it right. 

It should include:

· your hook 

· a short synopsis like the back cover blurb

· the book's status, i.e.: a 92,000 word completed work of women's fiction

· your bio 

· and finally your contact information.

Plain or with photos and graphics, as long as the one sheet includes the information listed above, you'll be fine.


The Write ConversationMy Book TherapyACFWThe Snowflake guyThe Book Club Network,

Jane Friedman’s blog.

Ane Mu Ane Mulligan has been a voracious reader ever since her mom instilled within her a love of reading at age three, escaping into worlds otherwise unknown. But when Ane saw PETER PAN on stage, she was struck with a fever from which she never recovered—stage fever. She submerged herself in drama through high school and college. One day, her two loves collided, and a bestselling, award-winning novelist emerged. She lives in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler. Find Ane on her websiteAmazon Author pageFacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest and The Write Conversation.  


October 8, 2020

Advice For Writers ~ Ane Mulligan~ Part 1

Ane Mulligan

• A nonstandard typeface—most places still prefer to see only Times New Roman or Courier fonts in 12 point.

• 1.5-line spacing rather than 2-line (double spaced) spacing

• Full justification instead of ragged right (left justified)

• Too narrow or too wide margins (standard is still 1” to 1.25”)

• Top and bottom margins are under 1" (the standard)

Five Steps To Develop Your Skills

There are many things you can do to develop your skills, but these five ideas will provide a great return:

1. Join a critique group. Several writers organizations incorporate critique options, like American Christian Fiction Writers.

2. Purchase, read, and use resources. Excellent books are available on standard manuscript formatting.

3. Proofread your work. Form a partnership with a writer friend and pass manuscripts back and forth. Then proof again—and again.

4. Take classes. You can do this through conferences, online courses, or a local university.

5. Join a professional organization. You have your choice from faith-based or secular (or both), including ACFW, My Book Therapy, and Writer’s Digest Online. If you do these things, your take on one of the seven basic plots could end up published—rather than tossed in File 13.


How real are they? Does the writing pull you, the reader, into the story enough for you to experience it? Do you feel like you're part of the story? That this character is your friend?

If we can relate to the character, through his/her motivation, we will follow the character through anything.

For instance: let's say your heroine wants to teach elementary school, third grade. What's her motivation? Your first answer might be that she loves kids. But is that a great story motivation? Or are you yawning? Yeah, not much conflict. Sure you can have a resistant kid, but where's the story? Unless you're a school psychologist, you'd probably pass on that one.

We need to go deeper. Okay, how about she wants to help kids.


Uhm, maybe a teacher helped her learn something hard that changed her life. So? That doesn't excite me. Does it you?

Again we ask why teaching kids is so important that if she doesn't reach her goal, she's devastated? That's the question that needs answering.

Could it be she wants unconditional love? The kind of love a child can develop for their teacher? Is that why she wants to teach?

Now we have a universal desire … unconditional love.

That's something with which any reader can empathize. And now we have a story, because she's looking for unconditional love in all the wrong places.

And now we have a motivation that will carry a story forward and give us lots of conflict.

Description With Purpose

Writing description for its own sake doesn't add anything to your manuscript other than telling the reader what you're seeing. They aren't experiencing it with your character, though, and that distances them from your story.

So how do you draw them into the story world? How do you create an intimacy between the character and the reader?

Everything in your story should have a reason to be there. Even the description of where your heroine is should have a purpose. Make its purpose more than just showing the where or what. Let it tell the reader something about the character.

Climb inside your point-of-view (POV) character's head and describe the scene through her eyes. Filter it through her mood, her circumstances, and her past. Yes, even her upbringing, because that helped form her response to circumstance and environment. What does the place—the scene—tell us about her?

Let's take a look at a simple description. It's good and includes some good details, but it lacks the character's reaction to what we're seeing.

The original paragraph:

Mary dipped one toe into the water, sending a ring of ripples outward. The early morning sunrays shone like spotlights through the trees across the inlet. Morning birds sang their happy songs and two glimmering dragonflies chased each other along the water’s edge. Towards the mouth of the cove a fish jumped.

Besides the fact that one toe won't send out a ring of ripples, what was Mary's reaction to the water? Was it cold? Warm? What's Mary's mood? Is she pensive, happy, sad, or nervous?

Let's try another example of the same paragraph:

Mary dipped one toe into the water. The iciness surprised her, since it was May. Shivering, she pulled her sweater tight across her chest. The early morning sun shone through the trees, spotlighting two mocking birds as they called out warnings to nest-robbers. In the mouth of the cove, a fish jumped, sending out a ring of ripples. Like the little lie she told sent out ripples of consequence.

Now we know something about Mary through the description. Even without the last sentence, you sense she's on edge. The use of mocking birds and warnings give the general feeling of uneasiness.

Here's another example of the same basic paragraph:

Mary dipped one toe into the water, followed by its mates, then her whole foot. Then the right one. Closing her eyes, she let the cool water massage her tired dogs. A trill of birdsong rang out nearby. The sun sparkled through the trees, spotlighting white-throated sparrows as they sang and flitted from branch to branch. In the mouth of the cove, a fish jumped, sending out a ring of ripples. She wished Rose could share this magical cove.

Even without the last sentence, we'd know Mary's delight in this spot. The description is filled with relaxation, comfort, and hope. Happiness. . .

Join me tomorrow about deepening characterization. Friday, October 9.

Ane Mu Ane Mulligan has been a voracious reader ever since her mom instilled within her a love of reading at age three, escaping into worlds otherwise unknown. But when Ane saw PETER PAN on stage, she was struck with a fever from which she never recovered—stage fever. She submerged herself in drama through high school and college. One day, her two loves collided, and a bestselling, award-winning novelist emerged. She lives in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler. Find Ane on her websiteAmazon Author pageFacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest and The Write Conversation.  


October 7, 2020

Protagonists Are Heroes

 Susan Reichert       

The dictionary defines a hero as a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. With this definition we can visualize hero’s (on screen) Batman, Robin Hood, Superman and Captain America to mention just a few. Kids idealized them on screen, and even adults evidently since Superman's Action Comics No. 1 sells for record $3.2 million on eBay, August 2014.

Of course In the movies we see men and women who are portrayed as ordinary people whom we feel are heroes based on what they do such as George Bailey (James Stewart) - It's A Wonderful Life ; Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) - To Kill A Mockingbird; Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) - Schindler's List; Norma Rae Webster (Sally Field) - Norma Rae; Father Edward J. Flanagan (Spencer Tracy) - Boys Town.

In writing heroes for our novels, we need to come to terms with what our definition is for a hero. A hero is an ordinary man or woman when presented with difficulties, misfortunes, and danger. They combat these through summoning their courage, strength, and using ingenuity to eliminate, contain or reduce these adversities.

Sometimes these men and women experience life-changing events that results in changing their lives.

The thing for a writer is to remember the story is a journey for the man or woman who becomes a hero. There are many kinds of heroes and we can find them in all genres.

Many of these heroes experience struggles, and we need to remember those struggles have an affect on their families and friends.

Creating the hero out of a normal character is like shining a light into a dark place. It brings the story to life. We all want to pull for a hero!

P.S. Hoffman said, “There are only three questions you must answer to flesh out your hero:
What does she want?
What will she do for it?
How will she change over the course of your story?

“That's it. That's all that your readers actually care about.”

For more from P.S. Hoffman visit:

Susan Reichert, retired Editor-in-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine, President of Southern Author Services, Editor of Suite T. President of Collierville Christian Writers Group (CCWriters Group).

She is the author of Storms in Life and God's Prayer Power. Susan and her family live in Tennessee.

Contact Susan: ;




October 6, 2020

Edie Melson ~ Online Etiquette

Edie Melson       


There is some confusion about online etiquette for mentioning and/or sharing content online. Here are some rules of etiquette that we all should consider before posting.

Mentioning and sharing content from sites we find valuable is the ultimate compliment, and a great way to encourage other bloggers and writers. Sharing a link to a site or even a specific blog post isn’t a copyright infringement. You can even share a short quote from another site without breaking any rules of good online behavior.
The Basics of Sharing Online Content

October 5, 2020

DiAnn Mills ~ Creating Strong Heroines

DiAnn Mills                  

Whether my source of entertainment is a novel, a movie, or a vibrant play, I want to experience a strong heroine. This is true for all readers. Who wants to get involved in pages and pages of a weak, whining woman who never changes or grows and needs (usually a man) to rescue her? Readers want to slip their feet into the glass slipper of experience, and that means providing them with a superior adventure.

I write romantic suspense, and a strong heroine is essential for all my novels. But this type of woman is critical for all genres. She’s fixed in my mind long after her role is finished. I want to be her! This enigma challenges me to understand what makes her credible and likable.