Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Can I Write Good Poetry?

                                Sara Robinson

How will I know if my poetry is good? That is a question I am often asked. And, it is almost impossible to answer. First of all, what do we mean by “good”? The person creating the work should determine his/her own definition. Good is SO subjective. But before you even ask that question, get the poem down, then work on the “good” part. For me to supply either an encouraging answer or to attempt to define it, would be like trying to train a rhino to heel.

But the question does determine an attempt. Here are my thoughts, presented as a list:

With something completed, ask yourself if you like what you wrote. Even if you like it, can you like it even more with some revision? Revision can be the most fun about writing poetry.

What was your original goal for the poetry? Did you achieve that? If yes, then think about the importance of the goal’s satisfaction. If no, then go back over what you write and try to find pieces to fix, keeping the goal in mind.

Read other poets and explore why you like or don’t like their writing. Use their writing to help you put together a definition for “good.”

Poetry is not just about good writing; it is also about feeling. When someone scratches your back, you say “that feels good.” Good poetry should also make you feel good. Also bear in mind that good poetry can make you feel bad. (And that could be good in a totally different context). Poetry is an intimate relationship in which both good and bad exist.

Think about texture of your poem. What other feelings do your words invoke?

Are you satisfied with presentation of the poem? How does it look on the page to you? If you are not happy with it, what changes could you make?

Don’t try to find “good” in one sitting. Let the poem under consideration stew for a while, then come back to it. Time is always on your side.

In her poem, “To Charlie, on His Poetry,” poet Alicia Ostriker writes, “The zoom of your poem would often/ pull far out from the scene you were capturing, // then you would nail it, down to the last/ pixel of the truth.” …

You will write in your life a number of words. Some will come together. Some won’t. When you feel like you have nailed your poem, and you feel good about it, then at the very least, for you the poem is good. Now you can get that rhino to heel.

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, January 18, 2022

My “Last Book”

                                Richard Mabry

My first book contract was 17 years ago. My reason for writing the book was rather simple. I had read every book I could get my hands on about the loss of a loved one, but none spoke to me. So, I wrote one myself. It was, and is, one of the most satisfying books I have ever had my name on as author. And with its publication, I thought I was done.

I signed the contract without an agent and was thrilled that an established publishing house was willing to put out a non-fiction book based on my emotions after the death of my first wife. I wrote an additional chapter for a second edition of the book over 10 years later, and The Tender Scar remains in print today. It was and is a ministry for me.

Because I didn’t know anything about writing a book or getting it published, I followed the advice of an editor and attended my very first writing conference. To this day, I can’t say why I chose a Christian conference, but perhaps it seemed natural. But I later decided that this was one of the two blessings to come out of my efforts there. The other was advice from a couple of experienced writers, who seemed to like the way I put the words together and suggested that I try my hand at writing fiction.

I accepted the challenge (or, at least, I took it as such) and discovered that having a book published was far from an easy thing. I wrote, re-wrote, submitted, and after four years and forty rejections, I was in the right place at the right time and had my first novel of fiction accepted. Several more followed, from several publishers. But I found a contract wasn’t forever, and eventually—after ten published novels—I had no publisher. Since I’d known this day was coming, I dipped my toe (or rather, my pen) into self-publication by putting out a series of novellas, and by so doing I learned that not only were there advantages and disadvantages to writing for a publisher, but that self-publication came with its own advantages and disadvantages. But it was another avenue for me, and I followed it.

With the advent of the pandemic, I found that it was hard to write. Many of my colleagues evidently felt this way as well. After considering it, I decided that twelve novels and seven novellas was probably a good place to stop. Why not just let it go at that? But my wife felt otherwise, apparently. She dropped occasional hints about writing, and finally came right out and suggested a story arc that I might find interesting: a story about an ER nurse who was trying to write a book. I tried several times to make this work, but just couldn’t. But along the way I became interested in the female protagonist I had created, as well as the male protagonist, a family doctor who had thrown himself into his work after the death of his first wife. I was interested enough to populate the story further, and before you know it, I had written a novella featuring these two. I couldn’t think of an appropriate title until I realized that the story featured a murder that was almost undetectable—a true “medical mystery.” And thus, my eighth novella was born.

Will this be the last? I thought I had already written my last novel, but I was wrong. In a burst of enthusiasm, I included the beginning of another one at the end of this one. Will it come to fruition? I’m not sure. Then again, I’d already thought once that I had written my last one, and I was wrong.

Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician, now writing “medical suspense with heart.” His previously published novels have garnered critical acclaim and been recognized by programs including the ACFW’s Carol Award, the Romantic Times’ Inspirational Book of the Year and its Reviewers’ Choice, the Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and the Selah Award.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Nostalgic Moment with Deborah H. Bateman 2016


Friday, January 29, 2016

Being a Writer

By Deborah H. Bateman

As a writer it is easy to get caught up in doing all the things that go along with being a writer besides writing our books, such as: blogging, marketing, social media, writing conferences, speaking, etc. The list can go on and on. If we aren’t careful we can become obsessed with all of it and forget that we are human beings with many other needs including spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, and financial.

Many of us have other roles to play in our lives. We may be parents, spouses, and some of us even employees. We have families to care for, relationships to tend to, and a house to clean, just to mention a few. We have to remember that writing is not our life; it is a part of our life. If we aren’t careful it can consume our lives and cause us to sacrifice some of the things that are most important to us.

I am preaching to the choir as I am writing this article in the middle of the night, but what can you do when you wake up with something on your mind but get up and write it down. That’s what we writers do. These are lessons that I have had to learn and am continuing to learn. If we neglect our families, our homes, our relationships, and our own personal needs all for the sake of writing what kind of life will we have. We need to learn to carve out time for our writing in our lives, and all the things that go along with it and not let it be our life. I challenge you to examine your life today and see what areas you are neglecting and see how you can improve your life.

Deborah H.Bateman is an Author, publisher, blogger and website designer. She is the founder of Christian Daily Resources, a Christian online ministry dedicated to "Sharing God's Word." Deborah was born and raised in South Carolina, where she still resides with her husband. She has two beautiful daughters and five precious grandchildren. Besides writing and publishing books, Deborah enjoys cooking, interior decorating, and crafts. Deborah is the author of the books in the Daily Bible Reading Series. Deborah's Daily Bible Reading blog has been moved to her author site at: She is also the author of Bible Verse Tweet blog where she shares daily Bible studies and Bible verses at You can check out her website at: Deborah enjoys "Sharing God's Word" and empowering others to share their message. Deborah's author site at: Deborah has a blog on her author site where she shares Daily Bible Reading and some self-publishing tips, digital publishing tips, indie publishing tips, book marketing tips, writing tips, and social media tips check it out at: 

Friday, January 14, 2022

The Second Chances in Life


                                   Jill Weatherholt

Do you believe in second chances? Can you recall a time in your life when someone gave you a second chance? Perhaps you made a mistake at your job, but your boss let it go. Maybe you wronged a friend, but she offered forgiveness. Life can be full of second chances.

Today, I thought I’d share a funny story about taking that second chance.

Many years ago, after my mother had spent the morning golfing with her friends, she shared a story.

It was a beautiful Tuesday morning—perfect for golf. She and three other women were playing their regularly scheduled weekly game. When they got to a par-3 hole (for you non-golfers, it means you have three shots to get the ball into the hole), and each woman took their turn.

The first woman hit her shot, landing it on the green. My mother and her other playing partner followed suit. Finally, the last woman in the foursome stepped up to the tee box. She took one practice swing and then another. After, she firmly planted her feet and addressed the ball to hit her first shot. She swung the club, striking the ball, resulting in a wild hook straight into the bushes. She proceeded to pull another ball from her bag and announced, “I’m going to hit again.” The rules of golf prohibit a player from hitting again without taking a penalty, but no one in the foursome spoke up.

She teed up her ball and readied herself to hit. Unlike the first shot, this time, the club made good contact. The ball soared toward the green. Everyone watched as the ball bounced onto the green and rolled straight into the hole.

My mother and her friends cheered, each congratulating her on a nice shot. The woman squealed and then proceeded to jump up and down, proclaiming she’d made a hole in one.

The three ladies looked at one another, confused. In golf, unlike life, there are no second chances. After a moment of silence, one lady spoke up. “That was your second shot, so it’s not a legitimate hole in one.”

Apparently, the woman believed she deserved a second chance. So, she took it. She marked her scorecard with a one and proceeded to the next hole.

Whenever the foursome reached that par three, in the numerous rounds of golf that followed that day, the woman would ask her friends, “Remember when I got that hole in one here?” My mother and her friends would smile.

In my current release, Searching for Home, you won’t find any reference to golf, but you will find my favorite trope. Perhaps it’s the romantic optimist in me, but I always enjoy writing a story that offers a second chance.

By day, Jill Weatherholt works for the City of Charlotte. At night and on the weekend, she writes contemporary stories about love, faith, and forgiveness for Harlequin Love Inspired.

Raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., she now resides in Charlotte, North Carolina, but her heart belongs to Virginia.

She holds a degree in Psychology from George Mason University and Paralegal Studies Certification from Duke University.

She shares her life with her real-life hero and number one supporter. Their relationship grew on the golf course, and now they have one in their backyard.

Jill believes in enjoying every moment of this journey because God has everything under control.


Thursday, January 13, 2022

Nosgalic Moment with Vickie Carroll


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Trying too Hard?

By Vickie Carroll

All my life my German DNA has been at war with my Irish DNA. When it comes to writing that became a problem. Part of me wants to let my creative side alone, to let it develop naturally, to listen, wait, and trust that the story will come. That is my Irish side talking. My German side says get busy, get it done, and work your plan. I walk away from the computer many days with a headache as my two personalities slug it out. This combination has served me well at times but has made my writing life difficult at times. I do meet those deadlines, and I follow through, try hard, and edit and over-edit. My finished product is fine most all the time, but somewhere along the way, I killed the joy of writing with my attempt to control everything. I had to ask myself, am I making it harder than it has to be?

I made a vow (my new year's resolution) that this year I would sit back and listen to what my characters tell me and allow my stories to develop without so much editor-me interference. I was determined to allow the muse to visit me and welcome her with open arms. I swore I would stop editing as I wrote and just let the creative process be what it was. I was successful about half the time.

One day I sat down at the computer and realized my entire body was in a clinched state. I love writing, so what was wrong with me? Why did approaching the computer stressing me out? What was blocking me from the idea and outlining process to the actual story writing? That is when I understood what I was doing. I was setting expectations for the outcome before I even sat down to work.

Now when I approach the computer I am not frowning and my stomach in not roiling. I sit down with only one purpose: let me get this character on the page, or let me get this great action or location scene down...the rest will come. When I took that pressure of final expectation away, it allowed my creative side freedom while it satisfied my "business-side" to know that I was getting something done that was important.

Lesson learned: stop trying so hard and remember the joy of the process and the reason I write--the love of sharing a story.

Vickie Carroll is a published fiction author who lives in the Atlanta area. She writes contemporary and historical romance, some with a bit of the paranormal, under the name Vickie Carroll. She is launching an entirely new interest, the cozy mystery series: Prediction: Murder, under the name, Vickie Lee. No cats, but an eerily smart dog, a Westie named Einstein. They live in the odd little town of Steepwick, in the Blueberry Bay area in Maine. When Harper Kagel is involved in solving a murder, it is Einstein that often finds the clues. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

We Need Inspiration and Courage

                                Susan Reichert

Every writer, at one time or another needs inspiration and courage to keep going. To keep writing. An interesting note here, is that we all need that, whether we are writers or not.

Richard Bach, the man who wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull and the book, Illusions: The adventures of a Reluctant Messiah said, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

I found that statement could be a writers motto if we changed it to, “I will not quit.”

Some days writers look at a white screen waiting for the words to come. It might be easy to get up those days and do something else, but there is something in a writer that that keeps them writing.

If you remember Jonathan Livingston Seagull was about a seagull who became bored with his daily squabbles over food. It is a simple story. He has a passion to learn to fly and he learns everything about flying he can.

But in the story, there is a profound message. The message is that we can all be so much more than we believe or are given to believe.

His story in the book of Illusions questions the reader's view of reality. He proposes that what we call reality is merely an illusion we create for learning and enjoyment.

The book explains that the world that we live in is an illusion, the things we think are real, are not, and so is the underlying reality behind it. The teaching Bach receives he concludes that each of us must focus on our own spiritual quest, allowing others to attain their own enlightenment.

In this book Richard Bach takes to the air to discover the ageless truths that give our souls wings. That we don't need airplanes to soar. . .that even the darkest clouds have meaning once we lift ourselves above them.

Perhaps that is what a writer strives for, to be better with every book we write and in so doing soar above the dark clouds in life.

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, January 11, 2022

Here Is Something To Contemplate

Sara Robinson

Your Signature Style of Writing

Here is something to contemplate: Can you recognize a poet by his/her style before you actually know who it is? Does a poet need one or does it seem to naturally evolve into a type of recognition? Is it necessary for a writer to have recognition in this way?

I only bring this up because as we continue to improve our writing, sometimes certain attributes emerge over time and practice. If we go on to publish, then common threads within our writing give signals of our style. What the reader can expect from our words and lines. We will get to topics later.

Let’s start with what we define as style in our writing: I submit, using the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry & Poetics, that style is a way that something is written; not especially what, but how. Also, the manner in which a work is written. Some critics would say that style is the “distinctive” voice of an individual. I say it is much more than that. I say an individual style is composed of grammar selection, poetry type (formalism, free verse, sonnet) used consistently, and presentation on the page that is commonly seen. An example of the last is the work of e.e. cummings. This is a typical pattern of his writing:

[the bigness of cannon]


the bigness of cannon / is [skillful], //

but i have seen / death’s clever enormous voice / which hides in a fragility

of poppies. . . . // i say that sometimes

on these long talkative animals /

are laid fists of huger silence. // I have seen all the silence

filled with vivid noiseless boys // at Roupy / i have seen /between barrages,//

the night utter ripe unspeaking girls.

As you can see one significant aspect of his style is his use of lower-case letters.

Emily Dickinson had a “signature style” as well. Hers, mostly of lines primarily organized in

Four-line stanzas. Within these stanzas there is a strict metrical pattern, mostly iambic

pentameter. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that most people recognize her poetry. Another

admired poet is Gwendolyn Brooks who novel “ballet” style is well known.

The free verse writers have more of a challenge in signature style. So, ones like me, look for words and topics to define us. Frankly, I cannot tell many of the contemporary writers contributing today and I think that is just fine. I am of the “camp” that believes in writing as an evolutionary process within one’s own skill set. While I might be recognized in some of my poetry, I don’t want a style to ultimately make me that predictable. I hope you will consider that as you grow with your writing.

Keep evolving. Keep guessing yourself. Only you should recognize you.

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).

Monday, January 10, 2022

To Prologue – Or Not To Prologue?


                                                                                    Leslie Budewitz

In a book club or a writers’ group, say you hate prologues and never read them. Or say you adore them. Then stand back and watch the opinions fly. The right prologue can set up and sum up the entire story. The wrong one can cost you a reader—and if that reader is an agent or editor, your manuscript may never see paper and ink.

What is a prologue and why do they prompt strong reactions?

A prologue is any short section at the beginning of a book that is, somehow, separate from the main story action. Some are labeled “prologue;” others are not or are labeled with a descriptive phrase such as December or At the Lake. Others slip their way into Chapter One almost imperceptibly. A prologue can set a mood, establish a character, show a past event with direct implications for present action, or introduce a character whose identity the author wants to keep hidden for a while. In historicals, fantasy, and science fiction, they can begin to build the story world.

The best serves more than one purpose, as in Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline:


I believe in ghosts. They’re the ones who haunt us, the ones who have left us behind. Many times in my life I have felt them around me, observing, witnessing, when no one in the living world knew or cared what happened.

I am ninety-one years old, and almost everyone who was once in my life is now a ghost.

The ghosts whispered to me, telling me to go on.


After this one-page beginning, we move to present action, labeled “Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011,” and told by Molly, a teenager in foster care. Kline’s narration switches between Molly and Vivian, the unnamed narrator of the prologue; chapters all start with place and time 
The prologue is poetic and thematic; it introduces one of the two main characters, both girls on their own in very different times and circumstances who meet in the present. It pulls us in and tells us what kind of story to expect.


We know we’re being given a glimpse of the narrator’s reflection on what’s happened in Catriona McPherson’s Strangers at the Gate where the opening is labeled Before and starts with this:

Looking back, it’s tempting to say I knew from the start as soon as Paddy said the word for the first time. I can nearly convince myself I shivered at the sound of it. Simmerton.

But I’d be lying. Truth is, there was a while back then when everything seemed fine. Or even better than fine. . . .

Brief, but it yanks the reader in. What should Finn have known? Why didn’t she? Why did it all go so terribly wrong?

The most common use may be to portray past action that drives the present conflict. 


Lori Rader-Day’s Under a Dark Sky begins this way:

A few years ago In the dim of the truck’s dashboard lights, Bix’s hand reached toward the steering wheel. “Hold on a second,” he said.

“At ease, soldier.” I swatted him away and kept my eyes on the road.

Eden, our narrator, has all but forgotten, or suppressed, this three-page exchange that occurred while they were driving home late one night. As the memories return, little by little, otherwise inexplicable actions of her now-deceased husband begin to make sense. Not until near the end does she put all the pieces together, finally understanding what Bix did and why, and freeing herself to move on.


Another common use is to portray a crime or another incident that sparks the story but that can’t be shown in the primary narrative because it involves only the criminal, whom the main POV characters have not yet encountered, or the killer and victim. Two examples from long-running series, the first from In a Dark House by Deborah Crombie, a police procedural set in the UK, the second from Through the Grinder, a cozy mystery by Cleo Coyle, illustrate this method. Both authors often use prologues from a killer or victim’s POV, and later interject short scenes from the same POV.

It took no more than a match, nestled beneath the crumpled paper and foil crisp packets. The flame smoldered, then flared and crackled, . . .

He would watch from a distance as the fire mounted to its inevitable climax and then—then there would be other fires. There were always other fires.

Scary, but compelling. As a reader, you want to know what this person is doing and thinking, but you’re relieved to know you won’t be spending the entire book in his tortured mind.


She had to die.

The Genius knew this and was absolutely fine with it. The problem, of course, was how. . .

But while these examples show how well a prologue can work, many don’t succeed. A news clipping or a police report can make a great introduction, but it’s hard to hook a reader without voice, emotion, or intriguing action, which factual pieces like these typically lack.

A common failure is the “illegitimate prologue,” where the author starts with action that occurs later in the story to make up for an inactive opening or one laden with backstory. Make sure any action you describe is pivotal to the later conflict. Foreshadowing is key, but not enough.

Another flaw is to go on too long, which can particularly throw a reader who isn’t fond of prologues when she skims the opening pages before deciding whether to buy a book. Get in, set the mood, and give us an insight into the story we’re about to read, and move on. Then, whatever function your prologue serves, make sure Chapter One bursts with voice, action, and everything else the reader needs to turn the page.

Should you write a prologue or not?

Depends. The original version of Bitterroot Lake, my suspense debut written as Alicia Beckman, started with our main character, newly widowed, driving down a narrow lane to an empty house deep in the woods, late at night. Plenty of hooks there. But my editor knew that a car crash twenty-five years ago would trigger a major story line and wanted me to open with it. “That means a prologue,” I told her. “Some readers don’t like them.” “I know,” she replied, “and I don’t care. This story needs one. Make it work.”

I came up with an unlabeled prologue, twenty-six lines long, that starts this way:


What Sarah remembered most about that day twenty-five years ago were the sounds.

The words that twisted Lucas’s full lips, that tipped away all the innocence of the weekend, which scraped her to the bone even still.

Janine sobbing, rasping for breath.

Each of the named characters plays a key role in the story to come. The images set a mood of danger and dread, and foretell a story of loss, but also, because Sarah is remembering, survival. The action drives the central conflict. We know what to expect, including the unexpected.

And that’s the key. Write a prologue only if your story needs one. Then make it work.

Leslie Budewitz is a three-time Agatha Award winner and the best-selling author of the Spice Shop mysteries, set in Seattle, and the Food Lovers’ Village mysteries, inspired by Bigfork, Montana, where she lives. As Alicia Beckman, she writes moody suspense, making her debut with Bitterroot Lake in April 2021 and continuing with Blind Faith in October 2022. Leslie is a national board member of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime.

Find out more about Leslie and her books at her website,, where she also blogs for writers.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Remembering When It Began

                         Ruth Kyser

Telling stories and writing them down began at an early age for me.

The first story I can remember writing was entitled The Tale of the Holy Sole. It was for a 4th-grade creative writing assignment. And no, Sole is not misspelled. You see, this little story was about a worn-out shoe and his journey through life after being tossed out by his owner. Let’s just say he was a happy shoe at the conclusion of the story when he met a snappy stiletto on the shelf of the local Good Will Store. By the way, I was thrilled when my teacher gave it an A+.

When I proudly took my story home, my mother read it and immediately asked where I had come up with the idea for the story? I remember shrugging my shoulders and telling her I didn’t know. It was just there—in my head.

So basically, I’ve written stories most of my life. Even after marrying my wonderful husband of now 46 years, and while raising a family, I still wrote down my stories, and every now and then would send them out to a publisher in the hopes I would get my “big break.”

In 2001 I was excited to finally publish one of my books—The Dove and The Raven—as a PDF Book. This was LONG before the days of eBook readers like Nook and Kindle. Back then, you had to download the books directly to your computer and print them off for reading or read them on your computer monitor. I sold about a dozen and a half book before the .com company went out of business. Apparently, we were ahead of our time.

I continued to pursue getting my work published, though, but other than for selling a few articles to a local news magazine, had little success.

Then in 2004, I sent my newest manuscript, Endless Season, to a managing editor for one of the large Christian publishers at that time. I had previously sent him the manuscript for The Dove and The Raven, and even though they hadn’t been interested in it, he had generously offered the opportunity to send him more of my work in the future.

I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t hear anything back from Jim for a long time. But when a year had passed, I decided to shoot him an email—just to ask if he’d had time to look over my manuscript. Jim was gracious enough to tell me how much he liked my book and explained why. Then he proceeded to say the dreaded words: “Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit with what we are looking for at this time.”

Filled with disappointment, I decided right then and there that it was time to give up. It was apparent God didn’t want me to write. No publisher wanted to publish any of it, so I was just wasting my time. So, I quit! For five years, I didn’t write a thing.

Looking back at it now, I think God was teaching me patience, wisdom, and discernment. During that time, I had no storylines running through my head like I usually do. It was as if God was giving my brain a rest.

Then in late 2010, my husband bought me a Kindle e-reader. Now, this wasn’t the Kindle Fire or the newest Kindle Fire HD. This was the first version which was pretty much meant for reading books. My daughter-in-law had one, and I was fascinated with its ability to store so many books.

In the process of downloading books to my new Kindle, I discovered something. There were well-known, best-selling authors publishing eBooks, but there were also unknown “Indie” or independently published authors publishing their works. After reading a few, I discovered that some weren’t all that well-written.

That was when I decided to try the Indie route myself. Maybe someone out there would enjoy reading my books.

I’ve now published twenty-two Christian novels and a cookbook and have loyal readers and fans worldwide.

My most recent Christian novel, Harper’s Hollers, is Book 2 in my Tennessee Christian Romances series. I enjoyed writing Marcie’s Mountains so much that when Harper’s storyline started running through my head one day, I knew I had to write it.

After her husband’s death, Harper Sinclair returns to the hills and hollows of her childhood—hoping to find peace and to start a new life. That, and to be closer to her father, whose health is failing.

She goes to work for Dean McRae and his log restoration business, and it’s there she meets Gordie Gordon—a man who has suffered his own losses. Will God bring them together as more than friends—or will circumstances beyond their control keep them apart?

Harper’s Hollers is a heartfelt story filled with people you will come to know and love.

The “Indie” route isn’t always easy, but I’m so glad I went this route. I’m still learning about the publishing process every day. It’s a constant struggle to try and stay on top of new technology, and I so appreciate the opportunity to network with other authors and get their input on the industry. I don’t think I’ll ever learn it all, which is fine with me. I love a challenge.

Why did I have to go through that dry spell so many years ago? Who knows? Maybe I had to wait for technology to catch up with me. Perhaps I wasn’t ready to accept the gift of writing.

I just know that I’m much happier now that I’m back to writing and not ignoring the gift God has given me—the passion for the written word. 

Ruth Kyser is a native Michigander—wife, mother, and grandmother, and just recently great-grandmother—who writes Christian Inspirational Romance. Ruth has had a wide variety of careers in her lifetime, ranging from corporate accounting, office manager at a YMCA Summer Camp for kids, owning and operating a hardware store with her husband, to being an insurance agent for twenty years.

She is currently retired—for the second time—after working part-time as a church secretary for three years. Now she devotes her time to writing Christian novels full-time.

Ruth is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and enjoys reading almost as much as she loves writing!

Ruth's Mission Statement: "My goal is to write stories that entertain, but more importantly, educate readers about Jesus Christ and His love for them."

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Who Do You Write For?

Erin Bartels

I didn’t realize I don’t take compliments well until a friend pointed it out during what was (for me) an awkward, self-conscious, dragged-out moment with a waitress who was just trying to be nice.

I didn’t realize that it was hard to make me laugh—really laugh, not just chuckle—until my son pointed it out at the dinner table (after making me really laugh).

I didn’t realize that I was intimidating until it was pointed out by—well, actually a number of people, but most notably my own father and my own husband about twenty years apart.

I didn’t know these things about myself until others told me they were so. Which is strange, because I generally make a habit of noticing things. I’m the one who sees the red-tailed hawk in the tree we just passed at 75 mph. I’m the one who sees the crooked pictures in the restaurant and straightens them as I leave. I’m the one who sees the way the light is hitting the clouds just so and points it out to my son and my husband so they will look up from their devices before the moment has passed.

The habit of noticing little things and wanting to make sure others notice them is part of what I think I started to write. Way back when, it took the form of sporadic journaling. Then sporadic poetry. Then fairly regular blogging for several years. If I think about it, that’s what most of my writing has amounted to—noticing and celebrating and making sense of the world around me and encouraging others to do the same. I write it down so that moment doesn’t disappear. I write it down to give that moment some weight. I write it down so that moment is imbued with meaning.

I guess I was so busy doing that, I didn’t pay as much attention to the landscape closer to home—myself.

Thinking about it now, I wonder if that’s where writing novels started for me. If it has been my attempt to pay as much attention to the inner world as the outer world. To acknowledge the heights and depths of the human experience and then put it down in words so that it doesn’t disappear without having been examined and appreciated.

Oftentimes writers get the question, “For whom do you write? Yourself? Or the reader?” My answer has always felt a little selfish to me because other writers all seem to answer that they write for the reader. Um, not me. I write for myself. The reader is not why I’m writing. I’m why I’m writing. And never more so than with my newest release, The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water

Drawing on some of my own experiences as a child, I developed the character of Kendra Brennan who, as a teen, suffered sexual harassment and assault at the hands of a friend’s older brother. She worked through those experiences by writing a fictionalized version of events as her first novel. But a letter from an anonymous Very Disappointed Reader has accused her of getting the story wrong, taking the wrong person’s side, using people for her own gain, and more. To move forward, Kendra must look back—into the events of those long-ago summers in the cabin on Hidden Lake in Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula. She must confront the man upon whom she based the antagonist of her first book—and perhaps discover she is asking the wrong questions altogether.

As you can probably surmise, The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water tackles the things we don’t want others to notice. The things we keep hidden, even from ourselves, because to face them takes the kind of self-examination we would rather avoid. We don’t want to face the ways in which we have failed others and ourselves, the ways other people have hurt us, the ways we neglected to see the things that were right in front of us all along.

This was not an easy book to write. But it was the one I have needed to write for more than thirty years. I needed to write it for myself. I’m glad others will be reading it. But I didn’t write it for readers. I wrote it for me, as a way to process painful memories, to examine how the events of the past shape us into the people we are today, to give an unresolved issue some sense of resolution.

As I think of the events in my life that inspired me to write The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water, I realize that those events may also have had a hand in making me someone who is just a bit uncomfortable with and suspicious about compliments. They may have something to do with why it’s difficult to make me laugh with abandon. And they certainly have a lot to do with why, at times, I come off as aloof, unapproachable, or intimidating.

They happened in the past, but they are continually with me in the present. Because who we are now is made up of every experience we ever had.

Ultimately—obviously—my books are for readers, and they’ll mean something a little different to everyone, depending on the events that have shaped them into the people they are today. I can’t control what this book will mean to readers. I can only say what it has meant to me to write it.

Release. Forgiveness. Moving on. And if that were the end of all the little stories in our lives, we should count ourselves lucky.

ERIN BARTELS is the award-winning author of We Hope for Better Things, The Words between Us, All That We Carried, and The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water. She lives in the capital city of a state that is 40% water, nestled somewhere between angry protesters on the Capitol lawn and couch-burning frat boys at Michigan State University. And yet, she claims it is quite peaceful.

She is a. publishing professional for twenty years, is the current director of WFWA’s annual writers retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Find her online at

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Laura Frantz Talks About A Childhood Love


Laura Frantz

“In the winter of 1667 – 1668, he noted the loss of “our ship Providence …

cast away on the French shore … [carrying] … cocoa.”

The Diaries of John Hull,

Mint Master and Treasurer of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay

In hindsight, my love of writing stems from a childhood love of reading. Fifty years later, I still recall standing in my elementary school library by a big window and the awe and delight I felt looking at all the little historical biographies written for children about Daniel Boone, Dolly Madison, Pocahontas, and other notables. I also remember the disappointment I felt when I’d read them all and there was no more to be checked out. At that point I became a writer, even though I’d just learned to read. At age seven I wrote my first story about, oddly enough, a ship and the sea. Perhaps that childish effort provided early inspiration for my thirteenth historical novel, A Heart Adrift.

As for writing, it’s been said that it’s a craft where we are all apprentices, and no one ever becomes a master. I’ve also read that it takes 10,000 hours for someone to master something, be it a musical instrument, a foreign language, etc. I never think of myself as having ‘arrived’ with writing. Other authors continually teach me things about the craft and creative process. Readers humble me with their praise and their criticism. Editors show me how much better my work can be through thoughtful analysis.

Writing is truly a gift. In the words of Madeline L’Engle, “A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.” God gifts us with the ability to write. It’s never something I could work up on my own. I realized early on in childhood that there was a certain heavenly magic about it. I failed at so many things back then – math, music, sports, etc. I was the quintessential shy, four-eyed bookworm. But something deep within reassured me I could write. It took forty years before publication which was something I didn’t even want to pursue because it was my own special, secret world that didn’t need sharing. Or so I thought.

Thankfully, my brother, a pastor/missionary encouraged me to wisely steward the gift I’d been given and so not long after publication became a reality. Of course, there are always risks in going before readers, editors, reviewers. A book is truly a piece of your heart and soul, brave if flawed. Writing and publishing require a certain vulnerability. In God’s timing, you may have something to give to a certain reader(s) though you’ll likely never know if your contribution has any eternal significance. The writing road doesn’t look like I thought it would. It’s thrilling and challenging and uncomfortable and fulfilling all at the same time. But I’m learning to trust the path and the outcome to Him.

For this thirteenth historical novel, A Heart Adrift, I fulfilled my longtime wish to have a sea captain hero. Recently I even rewatched an old movie from my childhood - The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Though very vintage, it’s every bit as poignant, romantic, and funny today. And like the captain in the film, my novel, aside from one shipboard scene, must be told onshore as women rarely put to sea. In fact, they were considered bad luck aboard.

While researching A Heart Adrift, I discovered a maritime world entirely new to me. History is rife with famous ships, sailors, and sea captains from the earliest ages. My time period – the 18th-century – is no exception. Captain Henri Lennox is but one fictional privateer amid countless real-life pirates, shipwrecks, and prizes on vessels cruising to countless international ports in the Georgian era.

From my heroine’s perspective, I learned about colonial American chocolate and its origins since Esmée Shaw is a chocolatier. Cocoa has a fascinating history and Americans became very fond of it, including George and Martha Washington. Cocoa back then is very different than our cocoa today and was also very laborious to produce and expensive to purchase. I am not a chocolate historian by any means, but I felt a bit like one while researching! And I sampled a great many different varieties of chocolate, including American Heritage’s reproduction colonial chocolate.

On that delicious note, here’s a peek at A Heart Adrift…

A Virginia chocolatier and a privateering sea captain collide once more after a failed love affair a decade before. Will a war and a cache of regrets keep them apart? Or will a new shared vision reunite them?

It is 1755, and the threat of war with France looms over colonial York, Virginia. Chocolatier Esmée Shaw is fighting her own battle of the heart. Having reached her twenty-eighth birthday, she is reconciled to life alone after a decade-old, failed love affair from which she's never quite recovered. But she longs to find something worthwhile to do with her life.
Captain Henri Lennox has returned to port after a lengthy absence, intent on completing the lighthouse in the dangerous Chesapeake Bay, a dream he once shared with Esmée. But when the colonial government asks him to lead a secret naval expedition against the French, his future is plunged into uncertainty.
Will a war and a cache of regrets keep them apart, or can their shared vision and dedication to the colonial cause heal the wounds of the past? Bestselling and award-winning author Laura Frantz whisks you away to a time fraught with peril--on the sea and in the heart--in this redemptive, romantic story.

I hope readers enjoy the sea-salted, chocolate world of A Heart Adrift. It was certainly quite an adventurous voyage writing the novel!

Laura Frantz Award-winning author, has a passion for bringing the distant past to life in her enchanting novels. Her signature style sweeps readers away in a whirlwind of romance, adventure, and rich history. In Frantz’s newest novel, A Heart Adrift, readers will step back in time to the 1700s—a time fraught with peril both on the sea and in the heart.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Jody Hedlund Talks About Being Born With A Passion

Jody Hedlund

Like many writers I was born with a pen in my hand. I filled notebooks with stories when I was growing up. My mom was the most influential person in my writing career. When I was young, she helped facilitate my love of writing by reading aloud to me, giving me good books to read, and providing the kind of environment that fostered my creativity (in fact we didn’t have a TV for a number of years).

My passion for writing followed me into adulthood. I wanted to be a writer. But like most aspiring writers, I struggled to know how I could use my love of writing novels in a career. Because I needed to pay the bills, I earned a degree in social work.

I kept writing and learning about writing during the years when I worked as a social worker. And it was during those post-college years, when I was working, before I had kids, that I wrote my first five novels and really studied the craft of writing. I read every how-to book about fiction techniques I could get my hands on.

Once I started having babies, I took a break from writing. And it wasn’t until after having my fifth baby that I picked up the pen again. The first novel I wrote after my hiatus went on to become my first published book. Now, twelve years later, I have over thirty published novels.

Even though I’ve completed several dozen novels, I’m still always challenging myself to learn. If I had to narrow down one specific thing that helped the most in my quest for publication, I’d have to say this: My careful, ongoing, and thorough study and practice of writing techniques has been an incredibly beneficial aspect of my writing career. In other words, I read writing craft books, studied fiction-writing basics, and then put what I learned into practice.

I’ve also worked with some excellent editors over the years who’ve helped me to hone my writing skills. I cannot say enough about the benefit of an editor who not only edits well, but also in the process, takes the time to teach writers how to improve. For example, over the past couple of years, I’ve worked with an editor who has taught me how to tighten my writing, helping me learn to spot repetitions and showing me how to trim down extra prose.

After writing so many books, I’m still just as in love with writing—even more so—than when I started down the road to publication. While I started writing historical romances, I’ve now branched into other historical romance sub-genres, including my new Waters of Time Series, which involves time-crossing.

I’ve always loved reading time-crossing books, but in recent years realized how few there are to choose from. After devouring the few books I could find, I decided I just needed to write one for myself. I happened to have a free block of time in my schedule between projects, and so I gave myself a fun treat and wrote one.

In developing the plot, I wanted to find a concept that gave off the feeling that time traveling was possible. Since people in comas are sometimes known to have very realistic “dreams,” I decided that would be the “vehicle” for the time-crossing. After discovering that “visions” were also connected to ancient holy water, I merged the concepts of coma and holy water. Hopefully, readers will be left with the feeling that time crossing is possible!

In the first book in the series, Come Back to Me (June 2021), research scientist Marian Creighton, thinks her father’s quest to find the ultimate cure is crazy, even if it stems from a desire to save her sister Ellen from the genetic disease that stole their mother from them. When her father finds and drinks a vial of ancient holy water and falls into a coma, Marian discovers clues that suggest he’s crossed back in time. At first, she thinks he’s insane, until she tests his theories and finds herself in the Middle Ages smack dab in the middle of the bloody Peasant Revolt of 1381.

During Marian’s time in the past, of course she has the chance to find true love. But the question that arises is whether she’ll get to stay in the past with the man she loves, or whether she’ll be ripped away from him and plunged back into her previous life.

In Never Leave Me (January 2022), Harrison Burlington, a brilliant scientist, is left to pick up the pieces after his friends Marian and Arthur Creighton die from comas after supposedly traveling into the past to the Middle Ages. With his power and wealth, Harrison continues the search for more holy water, with the hope of saving the woman he secretly loves, Ellen Creighton, who is dying of a genetic disease.

Ellen’s health deteriorates rapidly. As the one-year anniversary of the deaths of her dad and sister draw near, Ellen’s prognosis is grim, and the doctors agree she doesn’t have long to live. She resigns herself to her fate. But Harrison only grows more desperate to save her. When Harrison finds two flasks of holy water, he sets into motion events that changes both his and Ellen’s lives forever and sends them on an adventure of a lifetime.

It’s my deepest hope that readers will come away from both books in the series with a greater fascination and appreciation for history. And maybe in the process, they’ll also wonder if crossing time is more possible than they’d ever believed!

Jody Hedlund s the bestselling author of more than thirty historical novels for both adults and teens, including Come Back to Me, and is the winner of numerous awards, including the Christy, Carol, and Christian Book Awards. Jody lives in Michigan with her husband, busy family, and five spoiled cats. She loves to imagine that she really can visit the past, although she’s yet to accomplish the feat, except via the many books she reads.