Monday, December 23, 2019

Merry Christmas!

During this wonderful holiday season with family and friends, take time to worship the true reason for the season—Jesus Christ. Savior. Messiah. King of kings and Lord of lords. God’s love come to earth.

Alycia and I would like to thank you for your support and encouragement over the past few years. We look forward to serving you in 2020.

With love, appreciation, and blessings, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Alycia and Andrea


Monday, December 16, 2019

When Your Characters Take Over the Story

Congratulations to Diana Derringer and Melissa Henderson, winners of Murder in the Family by Ramona Richards. Ladies, please email your mailing address to andreamerrell7 @ gmail (dot) com.

By Andrea Merrell

As fiction writers, we know our characters well. We’re familiar with their background, their habits (good and bad), their quirks, hang-ups, desires, fears, and passions. We converse with them during the day and dream about them at night. Sometimes they’re more familiar to us than our own friends and relatives.

At times, we have to poke and prod our protagonist to do what we want her to do. We have to pull her out of her comfort zone and point her in the right direction. The same with our antagonist. Maybe he wants to move too soon or be more aggressive than we allow.

Generally, our characters will follow along as our story unfolds. But what happens when the characters have their own little pow-wow and take over the story? You might have a perfectly good plot in mind, but suddenly your protag has another idea. Now she’s pulling you along instead of vice versa. She’s surprising you by doing things that are out of character for her … and you’re loving it.

This is much easier for a panster (seat-of-the-pants writer). We love to jump on the bus and see where the driver takes us. Sometimes we have no destination in mind. We’re excited to enjoy the ride and explore the stops all along the way. Without a GPS to guide us, we’re content, eager to see where we end up.

At this point, I’m sure all you plotters are breaking out in a cold sweat. “What?” you say. “You can’t write like that. Where’s your outline? Don’t you at least have a storyboard? You must know the end before you even begin.”

Then there are the plansters, those who enjoy the best of both worlds. Many writers fall easily into this category.

There are pros and cons to each category, so you have to find what works best for you. But no matter which category fits you best, don’t be afraid to be spontaneous. As your story evolves, so do your characters. Trust them. Trust your instincts. Take the journey with them and see what happens. You just might be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

What about you. Have your characters ever hijacked your plot? What did you do when it happened? We would love to hear from you.

(Photo courtesy of and Stuart Miles.)


Monday, December 9, 2019

Don't Ditch the Comma

By Martin Wiles

As authors and writers, we can’t control what publishers and editors do with commas, but let’s not throw them out completely.

In the publishing industry, as it relates to the comma, the current trend is less is more. As an English teacher, I’m still hanging on to the old-school philosophy of teaching my students to put commas in places from which a publisher or editor might remove them. But as an editor, I must follow the style guides of the place I’m editing for.

Let’s set the standard: commas are important. And at least for two reasons.

First, commas prevent misreading. My all-time favorite is “Let’s eat, Grandma” versus “Let’s eat Grandma.” Without the comma, Grandma—whomever she is—faces a dilemma. With the comma, we know someone is directly speaking to Grandma.

Another example is reflected in the following compound sentence: “I chose the colors red and green, and blue was his first choice.” Without the comma, blue might be associated with red and green—which actually belong to an entirely different sentence—but with the comma, we know blue begins a new sentence.  

One place from which commas are disappearing is following short adverbial and adjectival prepositional phrases when they begin a sentence. Recently, I was reading a book published by a noted publisher when I noticed their comma usage. Two different sentences on the same page had short adverbial prepositional phrases at the beginning of a sentence. On one, the editors chose to insert a comma; on the other, they chose to omit it. I saw no difference in either sentence.

I teach my students to put commas the old-fashioned way. If the editor chooses to remove some, so be it. At least, the acquisition or proof editor will know the writer knows how to use grammar correctly, which in the end will benefit the writer more.

Second, commas—and all forms of punctuation—guide our readers to read our material in a certain way. Normally, a dependent clause or prepositional phrase at the end of a sentence does not require a comma, but a writer, on occasion, might want to insert one for effect.

With a comma, the following sentence takes on new meaning: “I studied for my exam but failed to pass,” or “I studied for my exam, but failed to pass.” Since the sentence is simple, it does not grammatically require a comma, but inserting one gives a totally different effect for the person reading it. With the comma, I can see in my mind the disappointment of the student.

Although comma usage rules are evolving in the world of grammar and writing, let’s keep the comma. Throwing them away—or severely limiting their use—could cause a lot of misunderstanding.

(Photo courtesy of, yodiyim, and everydayplus.)


Martin Wiles is the founder of Love Lines from God ( and serves as Managing Editor for Christian Devotions and as a copy editor for Courier Publishing. He has authored six books and has been published in numerous publications. He is a freelance editor, English teacher, author, and pastor

Monday, December 2, 2019

19 Unique Gifts for Writers and Readers in 2019

by Alycia W. Morales     @AlyciaMorales

Most gift lists for writers will have the generic writer T-shirts, jewelry, games, Scrivener, cups, etc. When I decided to curate this list, I wanted to provide truly unique gift offerings for writers. Christmas is quickly catching up to us, so hopefully you can find something original to gift that writer with this year!

19 Unique Gifts for Writers in 2019

1. Gift Cards: 

This one is generic, but a lot of writers I know (including myself) love gift cards. Some of the favorite places are Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, and amazon. What makes this gift unique is that the individual can choose what he or she wants, and you can rest assured they'll be pleased.

2. Laptop Skins: 

I love shopping for unique laptop skins and cases and stickers. With a multitude of artists, they have plenty to choose from. Check out the "I Create Worlds" Laptop Skin here.

3. Bookends: 

Writers read. Why not get some cool bookends for your writer friend? Check out these WRITER bookends by Knob Creek Metal Arts on Etsy.

4.  Writing Gloves:

I'm a huge fan of these fingerless writing gloves. Especially when it turns cold outside. Check out these A Christmas Carol writing gloves by storiarts on Etsy.

5. Christmas Ornaments

Find something unique for the writer's Christmas tree. Check out these ornaments:

There, Their, They're Rustic Ornament by Convertible Girl Shop on Etsy

 Little Author Ornaments on Bas Bleu (featuring Poe, Dickens, Dickinson, & Austen)

Vintage Typewriter Ornament Set by Creationz By Catherine on Etsy

6. A Book Box Subscription

There are box subscriptions for everything these days! Check out some of the boxes for readers:

 Fairyloot (Fantasy YA)

Owl Crate (YA)

Coffee and a Classic (Classic Lit, Classic Children's Lit, Classic Nonfiction)

7. Bookish Candles

What writer doesn't love the scent of antique books? Or maybe you'd like a themed candle based on your favorite tale? Check out these bookish candles:

Antique Books by Werther and Gray on Etsy

Forks, WA by The Cheeky Nose on Etsy

The Shire Sweetgrass by North Ave Candles on Etsy

Christmas at Hogwarts by A Court of Candles

8. Book Sleeves

Men have drink cozies. Writers and readers have book cozies. Protect your latest read (or your e-reader) while you're on the go with these:

The Cozy Life on Etsy

Book Nerd by Lukie Dukie on Etsy

Tea Time by StoryHero on Etsy

Steam Punk Inspired by Baby My Book on Etsy

Signature Library Card by Baby My Book on Etsy

9. Artwork

Have you ever wanted artwork to hang on your office wall for inspiration? Here are some pieces to consider:

@whimsicalillustration is one of my favorite book artists. Check out her print from the Caraval series by Stephanie Garber. She does commission work! This would make a great gift for a writer if you can describe a character or scene from the author's book.

Write Here Write Now Print by typeshyshop on Etsy

William Faulkner Quote Poster by Santander Art on Etsy

10. Handbags

My best friend bought me a purse with a library print on it. You wouldn't believe how many compliments I've received on that bag!

These are on amazon:

Women's Tote Bag

Unisex Messenger Bag

Women's Handbag

11. Music to Write By

Everyone has their favorite music to write by. Some like soundtracks. Others like classical. I, personally, like a variety. It really depends on what I'm writing.

Consider gifting your writer with a year's subscription to Spotify or iTunes or amazon music.

Or, order them the music you know they love.

Some of my favorites are Lindsey Stirling, the Downton Abbey soundtrack, and a variety of music stations on amazon music.

12. A Writing or Blogging Planner

 My Brilliant Writing Planner by Susan May Warren

 The Writer's Planner by Laura Kinker

13. A Weekend Away

Sometimes, authors need a getaway in order to find that extra boost of inspiration they need in order to put those words on the pages. Book a cabin in the mountains or a condo at the beach and let that author in your life get away from the every day for a weekend (or a week!).

14. Coffee Mug

I know coffee mugs can be generic, but what if you could personalize the mug? With a caricature? And the writer's first name? Check out this one by Tooned Up Gifts on Etsy.

15. 100 Essential Novels Scratch-off Chart

This is really cool! It's a poster of 100 classic reads, like To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies and Fahrenheit 451. They're covered in part by gold foil. As you read the novel, you scratch it off on the poster. What a great way to keep track of your classics reading list! I want one!

16. A Custom Photo Blanket

Some writers like to snuggle into a comfy chair, pull a blanket over their lap, and go to work. Instead of a picture of a person, you could customize their throw blanket with pictures of their book covers. Check out this blanket by Custom Cat Face on Etsy.

17. Tea or Coffee

Again, this could be generic... but!

What if your tea was based on a writer? Check out these literary teas by Rosie Lea Tea UK on Etsy. Your tea could be called Louisa May Alcott or F. Scott Fitzgerald. She has over 48 teas named after literary greats!

Hop on over to amazon to find these Novel Teas by Bag Ladies Teas.

 Know someone who writes suspense or thrillers or crime or war-themed books? Black Rifle Coffee Company has something for them!

18. An Hourglass

 Help your writer stay on task for up to 60 minutes with one of these hourglasses.

Do writing sprints with a pack of 6 hourglasses timed at 1, 3, 5, 10, 15, & 30 minutes.

Romance writer? Here's an hourglass for you!

Here's another great hourglass for the romance writer in your life.

This dragon hourglass is perfect for the fantasy writer!

Does your writer drink tea? This perfect tea timer hourglass set can not only tell you when your tea is steeped well; you can do a writing sprint while it steeps!

19. Computer Accessories

Every writer enjoys little perks. What if that perk was an accessory for their workday?

Check out this steampunk keyboard from Azio on amazon.

Slavatech on amazon has created this nifty steampunk thumb drive.

Like writing on a typewriter? Now you can have a keyboard complete with clacking sounds.

Maybe you're a romance writer or a fan of lipstick colors. Check out this keyboard.

19 Unique Gifts for Writers and Readers in 2019 {Click to Tweet}

What would you add to our list? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below!