Thursday, October 19, 2017

DOUBLE THE IDEAS: Getting the Most out of Research by Darlene Franklin

One of the most frustrating—and exciting—things in researching a book: I always come up with more ideas. 
Darlene Franklin

It happened to me again this morning. I’m halfway through a story about the Harvey House in Waynoka, Oklahoma. Charles Lindbergh chose Waynoka as the hub of his short-lived Transcontinental Air Transport. Who knew a small town in Oklahoma was once the center of the world? I jumped on that as my story when I first signed up for a Harvey Girls collection. (My novella, All Roads Lead Home, will come out from Forget Me Not Romances next February.)

I needed to go back to my sources to figure out a few story details and uncovered another fascinating fact: an elite group of 25 Harvey Girl Couriers worked with Indian Tours. They were highly intelligent and college educated, and romance was encouraged. I want to write a story about a heroine like that! Now how, and when, and where. . .

When you’re researching, save it all. Make a note of those story ideas. You can use them in future books. I studied Acadians when I wrote about Acadia National Parks. When it came time to write my retelling of the Little Mermaid, I worked with an Acadian heroine earlier in their history.

Her Rocky Mountain Highnessby Darlene Franklin
Other times I have a dozen ideas – and suggested a series involving other authors. That’s the way Christmas Mail Order Brides and Take Me Home were born.          

Grab that idea and take the ride—the joy of being a writer.

Best-selling hybrid author Darlene Franklin's greatest claim to fame is that she writes full-time from a nursing home. Mermaid Song is her fiftieth unique title! She’s also contributed to more than twenty nonfiction titles. Her column, “The View Through my Door,” appears in five monthly venues. Other recent titles are Christmas Masquerade, Captive Brides, Her Rocky Mountain Highness, and Take Me Home. You can find her online at: Website and blog, Facebook, Amazon author page

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

5 (Wholesome) Realistic Details to Use in Tween and Teen Fiction by Cynthia T. Toney

I write fiction for tweens and teens, so I read a lot of it, including secular fiction. Contemporary secular fiction for ages 12 to 18 shows a disturbing pattern, and it’s not only an increase in adult language and sexual content. Valuable space is often donated to descriptions of bodily functions. The opening scene of one novel I recently began to read was all about a character’s graphically detailed bowel problem. Novels often describe a problem from the other end, too. This is no way to lift up the beautiful creations by God that our children are. And is this the type of realism that entertains young readers today? I hope not.

But enough about what not to include in building a realistic story world for tweens or teens. Here are five details, sensory and otherwise, that we should include.

1. Embarrassment. Adults experience embarrassment, but it’s a daily occurrence for young people. Anything from their own spoken words (or thoughts) to a smile from a member of the opposite sex can cause them to blush. One instance for my 13-year-old male character, Sal, is when he rushes outside to see a female friend who arrived unexpectedly, and he becomes aware that he’s wearing his pants but only his sleeveless undershirt covering his chest. Probably no one outside his family has ever seen him without a shirt on, especially not a girl!

2. Music. What teenager doesn’t like music? If writing a contemporary novel, an author might want to keep the story evergreen by not naming a specific song title or performer. But do mention a type of music enjoyed. In historical fiction, research popular song titles of the period and have your character listen to a favorite on a phonograph or musical instrument. Sal enjoys listening to his family’s solitary radio, which is new and exciting in a farming community in 1925.

3. Food. If a character eats, what does he eat? Describe an interesting food and a character’s reaction to its smell or taste. In contemporary fiction, a teen in the southwest might be interested in foods common in the northeast. Maybe he’s never eaten lobster or clam chowder and doesn’t even know what it smells like. I describe Italian food in The Other Side of Freedom, including dishes made from the produce of Sal’s family farm, and give Sal’s reactions to his likes and dislikes.

4. School. Yes, even school can be an interesting detail, especially if it’s an unfamiliar type of institution. One of my female characters returns home from a Normal School, which is the name given to schools where girls were educated to become teachers in the early 20th century. Such schools were few and far between in 1925, and she left Louisiana to attend one in Alabama. And remember—at that time, if a girl had the luxury of graduating from high school (at a one-room schoolhouse in a rural area), her age was around 16. Teens might like to know that.

5. Government, Laws. Such a variety exists from country to country and U.S. state to state. Throw in local laws and a different historical time period, and many possibilities arise to incorporate details about government, political leaders, and laws. Just be sure to tie them into your characters’ experience and feelings. Sal reflects on his friend Hiram being named after the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate, and why Hiram’s mother might have named him so. Make the information personal to your characters so that an educational fact doesn’t sound too … educational. J

Do you have any tips to add to Cynthia's?


Cynthia T. Toney writes for tweens and teens because she wants them to know how wonderful, powerful, and valuable God made them. Her novels include The Other Side of Freedom and the Bird Face series, which begins with 8 Notes to a Nobody. Her books include thought-provoking questions for classrooms and book clubs.
Cynthia has a passion for rescuing dogs from animal shelters and enjoys studying the complex history of the friendly southern U.S. from Georgia to Texas, where she resides with her husband and several canines. Get to know her better by visiting

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Anxiety Prevention: Bind the Slave Driver by Zoe M. McCarthy

A few Sundays ago, I was frustrated. What I wanted to do was accept my husband’s offer to take one of our wonderful afternoon drives in the mountains. But I said I couldn’t.

Zoe M. McCarthy
Earlier this year, I’d learned my lesson about my Sabbath. I now reserve it for worship, rest, spending time with God, and loving on others. But I’m still figuring out what that looks like. That Sunday, I had planned to prepare something to send to my grandchildren, do my devotional I hadn’t done that morning, and read the Bible Scriptures and commentary for the evening Bible study. We wouldn’t have time before Bible study to enjoy God’s creation on a drive. No. I’d hole up in my room and complete those tasks.

My husband, the man who does most of the housework so I can hole up in my office and work five and a half days a week, accepted my plan, but I sensed his disappointment.

Then realization hit me. In my office five days a week from 5:30 AM to 6:00 PM, I read devotions, pray my lengthy prayer list, listen to God, develop the Bible study I teach (reading the Bible and commentaries), prepare my Sunday school lesson, and then work on my writing and platform tasks.

Did I, the slave driver, expect me to hole up in my office on Sunday because what I was doing was related to the Bible? Did God expect that of me?

And that loving on others, I wasn’t doing much of that on my husband during the week or Sunday.

So, after Sunday school and worship that Sunday, I told John, “Let’s go for that drive.” Traveling through fields, pastures, hills, valleys, mountains, and stopping for a moose munch ice cream cone at a small country store blessed us. We thanked God for the beauty of His earth.

I relished time with my husband, and the drive rested me.

At the evening Bible study, someone always reads the lesson’s scripture aloud. I enjoyed the lesson without the unnecessary pre-work I usually did. And I still put together something for my grandchildren.

We can avoid much anxiety if we tell the slave driver in us to take a rest at least one day of the week.

About the Author
A full-time writer and speaker, Zoe M. McCarthy, author of Gift of the Magpie and Calculated Risk, writes contemporary Christian romances involving tenderness and humor. Believing that opposites distract, Zoe creates heroes and heroines who learn to embrace their differences. When she’s not writing, Zoe enjoys her five grandchildren, teaching Bible studies, leading workshops on writing, knitting and crocheting shawls for a prayer shawl ministry, gardening, and canoeing. She lives with her husband in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Zoe blogs regularly at

Gift of the Magpie

Gift of the Magpie by Zoe M. McCarthy
Amanda Larrowe’s lack of trust sabotages her relationships. The English teacher and award-winning author of middle-grade adventure books for boys has shut off communication with friends and family to meet her January 2 book deadline. Now, in the deepest snow accumulation Richmond, Virginia has experienced in years, Camden Lancaster moves in across the street. After ten years, her heart still smarts from the humiliating aftermath of their perfect high school Valentine’s Day date. He may have transformed into a handsome, amiable man, but his likeability doesn’t instill trust in Amanda’s heart. When Cam doesn’t recognize her on their first two encounters, she thinks it’s safe to be his fair-weather neighbor. Boy, is she wrong.

Purchase link for Gift of the Magpie:

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Kick in the Inspiration by Marianne Evans

Marianne Evans
I haven't done one of these 'inspy' posts in a long time. I figured with all the chaos and anxiety running rampant through the world right now, what better moment to sharing an uplift - some tidbits of encouragement and writerly commiseration.

Let's face it, there's so much noise competing for our time and energy that drilling down to the basics of what we live for and strive for as writers (and people) is becoming increasingly difficult. So, taking a pause to breathe in fresh air is never a bad idea, right?

I hope you'll share your thoughts/quotes/ideas in the comments section. We'd love to hear them! To start things off, I've shared some of my own throughout this post.

I hope you enjoy! Be blessed, friends!


There's no time like the present!!

This one convicts me big time. You can't be a writer if you don't WRITE! Butt to chair, fingers to keyboard!

Don't be afraid of a first draft in need of work - write from the heart, edit from the brain! Bottom line, let the words flow!

What a fantastic editing tip no matter what your genre. Make your reader 'feel' it!!

I can only add one word to this particular meme: #TRUTH.

Friends, as anyone who knows me will tell you, this is how I roll. I don't go anywhere without pen/paper/computer - right down to the notebook on the bed stand. Yes. I'm an insane writer. Nice to meet you.  :-)

And isn't that, like, the coolest gift ever??!!??

Let there never be a doubt in your mind that your words, your books, your message have impact.

What better way to conclude this month's edition of Monday Encouragement? How beautiful is this?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Becoming an Overnight Success by Brenda S. Anderson

Brenda S. Anderson
Do you ever wonder what it would be like to become an overnight success? How do some writers manage to achieve it? Or do they? Author Brenda S. Anderson shares great insight on the subject. 
~ Dawn

Becoming an 
Overnight Success

One of my favorite songs from 2016 was “The River” by Jordan Feliz, a newcomer to the Christian music scene. I remember hearing “The River” for the first time, and being immediately captured by its unique, fluid rhythms, and driving music so much like a river itself. Add to that, the song’s catchy lyrics and Feliz’s vocal talents, and you have an instant hit. From Feliz’s very first release, I was a fan. And I was in awe of his overnight success.

Then I heard how many years it took him to become that overnight success.

Ten, to be exact.

His career began in 2006, touring with a heavy metal band. He transitioned to being a worship leader, and then he stepped out in faith and moved his family to Nashville where they scraped by doing odd jobs until he signed a record deal in 2015. Nearly a year later, “The River” was released.

Ten years of hard work, struggling, and persevering. Ten years of obedience and stepping out in faith led to his “overnight” success.

In Christian fiction, a few overnight successes come to mind:

Lori Benton’s award-winning debut, Burning Sky, came out nearly twenty-two years after she’d heard the call to write. And now, with each book, she receives more acclaim. Twenty-two years of learning and persevering and trusting in His plan led to that success.

Charles Martin, one of my favorite authors, received eighty-six rejection letters for The Dead Don’t Dance. How do you take eight-six rejections without believing those rejections are personal? By learning and persevering, by walking in faith and trusting. Now this bestselling, award-winning author has twelve books published, with The Mountain Between Us now a major-motion picture.

That’s success!

But let me give you another, different example:

I’ve written for as long as I can remember. In 2005, I took the call to write seriously and began penning my first novel. Six novels followed that one. After receiving forty-plus rejections over the years, I signed a four-book contract with a small publisher. That first book came out, and then the publisher went under. There’s no bestseller or award-winning flag next to my name, and my sales are plodding along. Yet, when I read reviews such as this one from Renee on Goodreads,

“The biggest thing that stood out for me is walking a life with God. I could relate to [the hero] and needing to reestablish my relationship with God. You never know what avenues God will use to reach you.”

Now that’s success.

Success isn’t found solely in the number of books sold or awards won, it’s also found in being humble, teachable, and obedient. God’s definition of success is not the world’s definition. We may never know, this side of eternity, who our writing has impacted, or how it’s impacted them, but when you step out in faith, and trust God to lead you on the long, rutted path of storytelling, know that you are a success.

What is your success story?

(Where the Heart Is #3)

When flowers and chocolate collide, romance is sure to bloom.

Family has always been the one constant in Jess Beaumont’s messy life, so when her parents separate, she puts “Operation: Planting Hope” into action. All she has to do is recreate the circumstances that helped her parents fall in love. Unfortunately, that includes the daunting task of restoring the family cabin’s gardens. When the handsome candy store owner shows up to help, she’s certain she has all the elements required for her parents’ love to bloom again. After all, flowers and chocolate are the perfect ingredients for romance.

Luke Harrison has spent his life trying to win his father’s approval, and a promotion in the family land development business would be a step in that direction. But when he inherits Gran’s candy store, his dreams of being promoted start melting away. Then his dad dangles a Vice President position in front of Luke, with one caveat—acquire the land on both sides of Gran’s store within five months, including the Beaumont cabin, and the promotion is his.

What at first seemed a simple challenge for Luke becomes a tangled mess. Buying the Beaumont cabin and land will nip his blossoming romance with Jess in the bud. Even worse, it could end her parents’ marriage. But if he doesn’t succeed, he could be trading in his corner office for the corner candy store.

Brenda S. Anderson writes gritty and authentic, life-affirming fiction. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and is Past-President of the ACFW Minnesota chapter, MN-NICE, the 2016 ACFW Chapter of the Year. When not reading or writing, she enjoys music, theater, roller coasters, and baseball, and she loves watching movies with her family. She resides in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area with her husband of 30 years, their three children, and one sassy cat.

Connect with Brenda ~

Thursday, October 12, 2017

How to win a RITA…or two…or three by Irene Hannon

Irene Hannon

Hey, friends, you're in for a special treat today. Irene Hannon graciously accepted my invitation to guest post on Seriously Write! Irene is a master storyteller and you are guaranteed to learn from her expertise. - Terri

As a three-time RITA award winner, I’m sometimes asked to speak on the topic of how to write a winning book. And what I have to say often surprises people.

Of course, a gift for storytelling, hard work, perseverance and an element of luck all play a role.

But beyond that, I believe the secret is focusing on the details—the basic building blocks of good writing that make your work shine…and stand out.

So here are 12 tips that can help you put the final polish on your writing and give it a winning edge.
1. Start in the right place, i.e. right in the middle of the action. Create a high-impact opening that immediately lets readers know something big is at stake. Begin with a bang—sometimes literally in suspense, but figuratively in any book. The opening must also leave readers with a question that makes them want to read on to find the answer.
2. Pay attention to chapter and scene endings. Leave the reader with a question or make the reader curious about what’s coming next. Give him or her a compelling reason to keep reading.

3. Establish time and place quickly in a scene. Ground the reader. Weave this information in as part of the story, not by stepping back in a narrative voice and telling the reader.

4. Never take the reader out of the story. This happens a lot when authors try to work in backstory or other technical data the reader needs. I find this a lot in suspense books when the action stops while some piece of equipment or a government agency is explained in the form of a data dump from a disembodied narrative voice. Anytime you slip into the narrative voice, you interrupt the action and slow the story down. That’s jarring to readers and pulls them out of the story—huge no-no. You want your readers fully engaged with your characters every minute.

5. Don’t head hop within a scene. It’s disruptive to story flow. Far better to let the reader, along with the point-of-view character, try to figure out what the other players are thinking by viewing their actions, inflections, and gestures through the eyes of the viewpoint character.

6. Pay attention to rhythm. For example, short, choppy sentences convey tension and urgency. This is a good technique for a highly charged scene in any genre. So use sentence length and construction to help convey mood through rhythm.

7. Cut adverbs. Eliminating adverbs strengthens writing by forcing us to choose better words. Don’t say she walked slowly; pick a stronger verb. She ambled. She crept. She limped. She trudged. 

8. Make limited use of dialogue tags (he said/she said). Most of the time you don’t need them and they bog down the pace. When you do need to clarify who’s speaking, use that as an opportunity to give readers an insight into the speaker’s character rather than just saying he said or she said. “No way am I getting anywhere close to Heather Callahan,” Jake declared.  How to improve that? “No way am I getting anywhere close to Heather Callahan.” Jake shoved the leftover chili in the microwave and slammed the door, stroking the yellow lab at his side when the dog flinched. Both examples tell us Jake isn’t a fan of  Heather Callahan, but in the second version, we also learn he has a kind heart because he cares about his dog.

9. Use as much dialogue as possible vs. narrative to advance the plot, deepen characterizations, and share background. People love to read dialogue. It keeps the story active and immediate and the reader feels engaged and in the middle of the action. It’s also a more natural way to add in backstory or important information.

10. Write tight and cut ruthlessly; if something doesn’t advance the plot or offer new insights into a character, cut it—no matter how much you love the words you’ve written.  Author Elmore Leonard, who was noted for writing tight prose, was asked once how he did this. He said he just left out the parts readers skip. That’s a great rule. Everything must be deliberate and there for a purpose or it should be cut.

11. Always take the time to choose the right word; Mark Twain said it best: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” The power of using the right word is amazing. Walked conveys a whole different meaning than sauntered. Take the time and make the effort to choose the perfect word.

12. Don’t overuse pet words. We all fall into this trap, and new ones keep cropping up. Consider making a list of your own overused words, then search for them after you finish a chapter.

Dangerous Illusions
by Irene Hannon
That’s it! I hope you find a helpful nugget or two in this list. I didn’t learn many of these tips until long after I’d published my first book—and every one I’ve applied has made me a better writer. Thanks for having me today, and happy writing!

Dangerous Illusions by Irene Hannon
Trish Bailey is on overload trying to deal with a demanding job, an ailing mother, and a healing heart. When a series of unsettling memory lapses leads to a tragic death--and puts Trish under police scrutiny--her world is once again thrown into turmoil.

Detective Colin Flynn isn't certain what to think of the facts he uncovers during his investigation. Did Trish simply make a terrible mistake or is there more to the case than meets the eye? As he searches for answers, disturbing information begins to emerge--and if the forces at work are as evil as he suspects, the situation isn't just dangerous . . . it's deadly.
Irene Hannon is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than fifty contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. In addition to her many other honors, she is a three-time winner of the prestigious RITA Award from Romance Writers of America (the “Oscar” of romance fiction) and is also a member of that organization’s elite Hall of Fame. In 2016, she received a Career Achievement award from RT Book Reviews magazine for her entire body of work.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Ready, Set—Wait: Three Questions for Writing Success by Gayla Hiss

When I first began writing, it was as a hobby that I enjoyed on the weekends. Then I decided I needed to be published in order to be successful. However, by the time my first book was released, many years later, my idea of what it means to be a successful writer had changed altogether. Here are three questions to consider if your goal is to become a successful writer:

1. Are you ready to put in the effort and make the required sacrifices?

It’s one thing to write at your leisure or when you’re feeling inspired and it’s convenient, but it takes more commitment to write when you’re sick, in a bad mood, or when words don’t come easily. It sometimes requires performing well under pressure, and saying no to other things so you can finish your work on time. Often, it involves allowing others to read and critique your work, and being willing to revise it based on their feedback. If you’re not ready to do that, then this is a good time to re-examine your writing objectives and think about which aspects of writing you are comfortable with. Question 2 addresses this process.

2. Are you willing to adjust and re-set your writing goals as needed?

I first began writing as a way to relieve stress from a demanding job. However, I enjoyed writing so much that I started to dream of becoming published. As I pursued this goal, I had a few setbacks. Then more setbacks. Years went by with nothing to show for my hard work but a stack of rejection letters from publishers and agents. Eventually, I realized that if I wanted to enjoy writing, I needed to change my goal to something more attainable than becoming published. So I focused on writing the best book I could. That decision liberated me from the stress of striving to be published, and I rediscovered the joy of writing again, which leads me to the last question.

3. Are you in it for the long-haul?

Facing the possibility that I might never be published, I became frustrated and discouraged. After a lot of soul-searching, I finally decided to turn it over to God. After all, if this wasn’t His plan for me, then He must have something better in mind. Like a composer penning a hymn, my writing became an exercise of gratitude and worship. It was at this time in my life when God opened the door to publication for me—suddenly and without any striving on my part. Yet, it was after I had my head and heart in the right place to receive His blessing in accordance with His plan.

If God is calling you to be published, it will happen at the right time, even if it’s years away. Meanwhile, embrace this season of waiting as a gift so you can grow in your craft and focus on the simple joy of expressing yourself through words as a spiritual act of worship. When you’ve mastered that, then you truly are a successful writer, regardless of whether you’re published or not.

How are you "embracing the season of waiting"?


Gayla’s writing journey began with her hobby painting landscapes. In her imagination, characters and scenes came to life as she painted beautiful natural settings. Her inspiring novels combine her love for the great outdoors with romance, suspense and mystery. Gayla and her husband often tour the country in their RV, visiting many state and national parks. She enjoys hiking, camping, and traveling, and lives in the Pacific Northwest. She’s excited to announce the release of Dangerous Ground, book 2 in her Peril in the Park series, which can be purchased on Amazon at: Visit to learn more, and connect with her on Facebook, Amazon and Goodreads.

Dangerous Ground

It started with an anonymous note, but will it end in disaster?

Uncle Owen had died mysteriously, and Deputy Marshal Kate Phillips wants to know why. After arriving at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in search of answers, Kate finds herself at the center of an ancient family feud and a land dispute. It turns out a surprising number of people have an interest in her uncle’s estate. Even David Jennings, Kate’s handsome Good Samaritan who rescued her when she arrived, thinks he has a claim on Owen’s property—which some say is cursed.
Amid the mounting secrets and rumors circulating in the seemingly peaceful community, Kate has a secret of her own—one that could threaten her life and any future she might have with David. It soon becomes clear someone is targeting her. Could Kate’s troubled past have come back to haunt her, or have the clues she’s uncovered about her uncle’s suspicious death put her life in danger? To solve the mystery, Kate needs David’s help. But can they pull together before time runs out? Or will they become the next victims when it all explodes?