Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Description - Misty Blues

Note the mist rising from the blue jeans as they dried in the morning sun.
Can you describe the summer morning heat?
Where might this scene take place?

photo by Alycia Morales / God's Glory Photography

Monday, July 28, 2014

World Blog Tour - Catching Up With Alycia Morales

Christian writers support and encourage one another by letting our readers know about other new writers they may like. We do this through blog tours. Edie Melson invited me to answer four questions and then point you toward three authors whose work I support.

What am I working on now?
I have written a New Adult novel titled Secret Identity. Ivy's life fell apart at 16, when her father unexpectedly left. When her mother makes a rash decision to move to NYC between semesters during Ivy's freshman year of college, Ivy unravels even more. As her mother struggles to move on in life, Ivy struggles to go back, wishing beyond anything that her father would come home. I am about to make a final edit.

I'm also working on book two of my series, Identity Crisis. I'm still brainstorming as I write, but the story is about a young woman who has made a few bad decisions along her journey as a flight attendant. As she tries on different personalities in a lame attempt to discover who she truly is, she meets someone who encourages her to quit trying to hide behind the masks and just be.

How does my work differ from others in it’s genre? 
My work tackles the tough issues in life, but it doesn't cross the line into sex and erotica like many New Adult novels do. I prefer to keep the story clean enough for older teens, "new adults," and their mothers to read without blushing or feeling dirty when they put it down.

Why do I write what I write? 
I chose to write New Adult novels because I want young women to know that there is hope to overcome our past, present, and future mistakes. We can live the life of our dreams, walk in freedom, and stand strong without the weight of worldly issues on our shoulders. I want to tackle the tough topics, the elephants in the rooms of our hearts. The things women experience and go through that no one wants to address in faith circles. What do we do with eating disorders, fornication, divorce, sexual abuse, and other such issues that are (unfortunately) common place in today's world and our lives? My books will hopefully bring hope, encouragement, and a desire to live more fully to young women (and some older) today.

How does my writing process work?
I get ideas from all sorts of places. A scripture verse. A conversation. A line in a movie. A song. A sunset. The airport. The laundromat. I keep these in a notebook, and when the cast of characters for that idea begins to speak to me, I write notes or type paragraphs to get the story going. I tend to write as I go, only stopping to outline when I hit a wall or can't remember the color of a character's eyes or if I tied up that loose end. That's when I turn to outlining and character sketch sheets. I can say I struggle with turning my internal editor off, which I believe is a result of two things: being an editor and a perfectionist. Sometimes I will make sure my first three chapters are tight before I move forward. But I'm learning to shut her down and keep moving. When I finish writing the crappy first draft, I rewrite. Then I edit. Then I edit again. Then I hire a professional editor and have three or more of my writing friends look my story over. Then I edit again. I firmly believe in making sure my manuscript is the best it can be and not relying on myself to make it that way. And finally, I submit it to my agent. And sometimes, like now, I rework it some more. Because I want God to be able to use it to change lives or at least make someone consider a new thought.

Next on the world blog tour, I’d like to introduce you to these writers:

Bethany Kaczmarek, a freelance editor and a writer, is passionate about making room for the New Adult niche in the inspirational market, so she writes about young people who wrestle with newfound independence, struggle to make counter-cultural choices, and live with integrity in both the workplace and the world. A member of ACFW, the My Book Therapy Voices, and the Light Brigade Writers Group, Bethany writes about the places where grit meets Grace. Read more about her at Find out about her editing at

Charity Tinnin's fascination with dystopian lit began in high school with Brave New World, and she’s been devouring the genre ever since. Now, she mentors high school students at her church, works as a freelance editor, and lives in the foothills of North Carolina—a terrain very similar to a certain series. When she’s not editing for a client or working on the State v. Seforé series, she spends her time reading YA and discussing the merits of Captain America, Frederick Wentworth, Prince Charming, and Stefan Salvatore online. Speaking of the interwebs, Charity loves to talk about YA fiction, TV, and State v. Seforé. Find her on TwitterFacebook, or her website to start the conversation.

Ron Estrada is an engineer and aspiring novelist from Oxford, Michigan, where he lives with his wife and two children. Though often distracted by politics, he still finds time to write for God’s glory. To learn more about him, visit

Thank you to Eddie Jones for starting this World Blog Tour and for being a publisher who cares about furthering God’s kingdom through the ministry of the written word!

I'd love to know what you, our readers, are working on, as well! Feel free to tell us about your latest project in the comments. Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

World Blog Tour—Catching Up with Andrea Merrell

By Andrea Merrell

Christian writers support and encourage one another by letting readers know about other writers. We do this through blog tours. Edie Melson invited me to answer four questions and then point you toward three authors whose work I support.

What am I working on now?

The majority of my time is spent editing, editing, editing—books for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, devotions for, and freelance jobs. My biggest challenge is balancing my time between writing and editing. My second book, Praying for the Prodigal, releases in March of 2015, so I’m busy with the finishing touches. I write devotions, articles, and blog posts, but I have three novels in various stages that are begging to be completed. I also have a short Christmas story due to release online in September of 2014.

Blogging is a new adventure for me, but I am exited to partner with Alycia Morales to bring you This site is designed especially for writers, written from an editor’s perspective, and we strive to give helpful tips to both new and seasoned writers. We feature a guest blogger on the first Monday of each month to share their wisdom with our followers.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Because I write in a variety of genres, that’s a difficult question to answer. I always want my words to be informative and uplifting to the reader, whether fiction or nonfiction. It’s important to be as real, transparent, and down to earth as possible, especially in nonfiction. If I can challenge a reader to keep moving forward, inspire them to reach higher, and give them hope and encouragement, I feel I have accomplished my purpose.

Why do I write what I write?

Someone once said, “If you think about writing when you get up, go to bed, and all through the day, you’re a writer.”  I am a writer and find inspiration all around me—through a song, a movie, or something silly one of my granddaughters says. Other times it comes through a trial, or simply during my morning devotion time. 

I love to mentor new writers and help them get started on their writing journey.  Murder of a Manuscript gives writers short, simple, easy-to-read-and-follow guidelines to help them polish their manuscripts, making them as clean and professional as possible. The purpose of my prodigal book is to share my own heartbreaking experience and the lessons I learned, giving other parents hope, encouragement, and practical advice from someone who’s been there and survived.  I enjoy writing Christian fiction with relatable characters and real-life scenarios that will inspire the reader and point them to the Lord, without being preachy. To me, writing is not a job; it’s a ministry and a calling.

How does my writing process work?

Sometimes it’s as easy as sitting down, putting my fingers on the keyboard, and allowing the words to flow freely. At other times, it’s more difficult, especially when my inner-editor wants to keep interrupting the flow. I am primarily a pantser or SOP writer (seat-of-the-pants).  I do a lot of editing, proofreading, and rewriting (and eat a lot of dark chocolate).

Next on the world blog tour, I’d like to introduce you to these writers:

Ann Tatlock

Ann Tatlock is an award-winning novelist and children's book author. She also serves as managing editor of Heritage Beacon, the historical novel imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Her books include Sweet Mercy, The Returning, and Travelers Rest. She teaches workshops at writers’ conferences, and lives with her husband and daughter in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can read more about her work at

Cindy Sproles

Cindy Sproles is an author and speaker, whose dream is to do nothing more than craft words that speak from the heart. She’s a mountain gal, born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains. Cindy is the Executive Editor of, and Acquisitions Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.  Her devotions and articles are published weekly in several newspapers across the country. Cindy is the coauthor of He Said, She Said: A Devotional Guide to Cultivating a Life of Passion, and the author of New Sheets: Thirty Days to Refine You Into the Woman You Can Be. Connect with her at  

Kathy Ide

Kathy Ide is a full-time freelance editor and writing mentor. She is also  ghostwriter/collaborator and a speaker/teacher at writers’ conferences. As an Editor Services Coordinator, Kathy matches authors, publishers, and agents with professional freelance editors/proofreaders through the ChristianEditor Connection. She is the founder and director of The ChristianPEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network, a professional support organization for aspiring and established editorial freelancers. Kathy is the author of Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors (formerly Polishing the PUGS). She is the abundantly blessed wife of a fabulous man and mother of two terrific sons. Visit her at

Thank you to Eddie Jones for starting this World Blog Tour and for being a publisher who cares about furthering God’s kingdom through the ministry of the written word! Visit Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. 


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Whose Umbrella Is It?

Who's hiding under the umbrella, behind the chair?
Develop the character in three sentences or fewer. 

photo by Alycia Morales / God's Glory Photography

Monday, July 14, 2014

Chicken Soup—with a Dash of Faith

By Tracy Crump

Story or testimony? That’s the quandary many writers face when writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Chicken Soup is the best-selling series in publishing history and a golden opportunity for Christian writers. With titles such as Count Your Blessings and Answered Prayers, many people believe Chicken Soup is a Christian series. According to the editors, however, their books are intended for the general market. Yet they allow authors to write about God for any of their titles. Consequently, Chicken Soup gives Christian writers a chance to share their faith with a wide range of readers.

So what’s the problem?

One of the Chicken Soup guidelines states they don’t want testimonials. That often proves a stumbling block for Christian writers because testimony can involve more than a salvation experience.

The following will help you distinguish between story and testimony:

·         Let God drive. As Christians, we want to tell about what God has done for us and why He did it. That’s where we often cross the line into testimony. Keep in mind that Chicken Soup is all about story. Let God’s actions drive the story. Let God speak through the circumstances.
·         Leave preaching to the preacher. Avoid words such as should, must, ought to, have to, need to. These are preachy words we sometimes feel we need to get our point across. They tend to jab a finger in the reader’s face and have no place in Chicken Soup books. Use story to win your reader.
·         Incorporate faith-based values. Center your story around scriptural values such as love, truth, justice, mercy, forgiveness, or self-control. When you do, God shines through your words. God reaches people in many different ways.
·         Avoid Christianese. Terms like sanctification, justification, the foot of the cross, and the blood of the Lamb mean nothing to many people. Use words that someone who has never attended church would readily understand.
·         Omit Scripture. I do not see Scripture quoted in Chicken Soup stories, with the exception of their recent devotional books. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t refer to truths or events in the Bible. Just avoid quoting chapter and verse.

Every one of us who is a disciple of Christ bears the responsibility of sharing our account of what God has done in our lives. But as writers, that telling must differ according to the publication we’re writing for. If we push the limits beyond what Chicken Soup guidelines allow, our stories will not reach their diverse audience.

After all, you never know when someone who wouldn’t touch a devotional book will pick up Chicken Soup for the Soul and read your story of God’s faithfulness.

Tracy Crump has published thirteen Chicken Soup for the Soul stories and conducts workshops and webinars on writing for the best-selling series. Her next webinar is scheduled for July 16, 2014. Go to to register or to subscribe to her popular e-newsletter, The Write Life, which includes anthology story callouts. Tracy also writes a column for Southern WritersMagazine and publishes articles and devotionals. But her most important job is grandmother to three-year-old Nellie.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Boredom Busters #3: Action!

You've heard it before. Start your story in the middle of the action. No one wants to read a bunch of back story, a weather report, or a drawn out description of scenery on the first page of your novel. Instead, the reader wants to meet your characters, particularly your protagonist. They want to know what he or she is facing (also known as conflict). And they want a story that is going to move them to turn the page.

You'll want to start with a great hook, but that's not the focus of this particular post. The focus of this post is how to write an active story. This need not only apply to fiction writing, either. Every non-fiction book needs anecdotes, and these should be as active as their fiction counterparts.

Five ways to write an active story:

1. Use active verbs. Avoid is/was/were, to be, began, started, and other such boring verbs.

2. Don't tell us the ins and outs of your character's daily routine. Pick the important points and insert the daily routine into them.

3. Use dialogue that matters. Just as we don't need the nitty gritty details of your character's daily routine, we don't need all of the typical introductory dialogue like the hellos and goodbyes and okays we would normally use in conversation. What a reader wants is active dialogue, not the fillers.

4. Use the occasional dialogue beat to keep the action of the story moving while the characters are conversing. He said/she said tags are a good way to keep the reader moving down the page, but insert an occasional beat so they can keep up with what the character is doing.

5.  If you need to tell the reader something about your character's past (aka back story), include it in the conversation or as a brief thought your character has. Only tell as much as is absolutely necessary as it applies to the current moment in their life. If it isn't necessary, it's better to leave it out.

For example, your character is making her morning pot of coffee when she receives a life-changing phone call. 

Photo Courtesy of anyone71
Here's how not to write it:
When I was a little girl I always wanted to be a journalist. I'd loved doing research reports and writing a daily family news column that I would read to my parents at the dinner table each night. Dad had always supported my love for writing and had vowed to send me to college. He worked hard so that I wouldn't have to worry about anything and could focus on my studies instead of having to flip burgers to pay for college. Today I would graduate from journalism school, and next week I would begin my career at the local Times Union newspaper as a local news journalist. I couldn't wait to see my dad's face as I received my diploma. 
I woke up this morning and went to the bathroom, where I splashed cold water onto my face and brushed my teeth. Then I walked down the hall to the kitchen and turned on the water in the sink, filled up the coffee pot, poured it into the maker, got a filter out of the cover, and put the coffee grounds into the filter before I turned on the pot. While I was waiting for my morning pot of coffee to finish brewing, the phone rang and I answered it. It was my mom.
"Hello Mom," I said. "How are you?"
"I'm fine," Mom said.
I could tell by her voice that she wasn't okay.
"Are you sure?"
"Well, actually, I'm not. Your father died. He never woke up this morning."
I was trying not to cry. "What?" He was healthy yesterday.
"The paramedics think it was a heart attack. We won't know until the autopsy is finished."
Tomorrow would have been his fiftieth birthday.
"I'm sorry, Mom. I have to go."
"I love you honey."
"I love you too. Please call me when you know more."
"I will," Mom said.
"Okay," I said.
"Okay," Mom said.
"Goodbye Mom."
"Goodbye sweetie."
I hung up the phone. It started to rain outside. My coffee smelled good, but I wasn't sure I needed the buzz to make it through my day. But maybe it would comfort me instead. I took a cup from the cupboard. I poured the coffee. I added sugar and cream and stirred it with a spoon. Then I took a sip. I was going to puke.

How to write it:
Photo Courtesy of Intuitives
As I prepared my morning pot of coffee, the phone rang.
"Hey Mom!"
"Julie, I'm afraid your father and I won't be able to make your graduation this afternoon."
The high I'd woken with deflated. "Why?"
Mom's voice wavered. "Your..." She breathed deep.
"What's wrong, Mom?"
"Your father didn't wake up this morning."
A tear slipped down my cheek as the sun faded to a sky of storm clouds outside the kitchen window of my apartment. I couldn't breathe.
"I'm here. What happened?" I turned the coffee pot on.
"The paramedics think it was a heart attack. We won't know for sure until the autopsy is finished."
Not knowing what else to say, I told her I love her and hung up. I reached for my coffee cup, hand trembling as I held back the tears that threatened to flood my cheeks. As I pulled the mug from the cupboard, another crashed to the tile floor, breaking into a hundred pieces.
I bent over and let the tears fall. Lord, he was only fifty-five. We were supposed to celebrate tomorrow. Together. His birthday. My graduation. The career I always dreamed of. Why now?


Five Ways to Write an Active Story:  @AlyciaMorales #amwriting {Click to Tweet}

How to Bust Your Reader's Boredom: Write an Active Story @AlyciaMorales #amwriting {Click to Tweet}

Do you have any other suggestions for writing an active story? We'd love to hear from you!