Monday, September 25, 2017

Let’s Talk about Dashes by Annette M. Irby

Red pencil*

Writers have often asked me as I'm editing their projects: what is the difference between dashes? Let’s take a look at three of them and see if we can clear up any confusion.

Three Types of Dashes

There are three types of dashes fiction writers will use most often:

Hyphen: -
En dash: –
Em dash: —

(Note the length of each, which is how we tell them apart and how we know when to use each of them.)

Uses of Dashes

Let’s begin with the first one. A hyphen is used for compound adjectives or other words, names, as well as single letter or first sound stuttering. Hyphens are also used in phone numbers, social security numbers, and ISBNs (yay!). One would also use hyphens to divide single letters when a word is spelled out. Examples:

Broken-down car

Mrs. Smith-Waters


My last name is spelled: r-i-l-e-y

Y-y-you’re right!

Th-thank you!

An en dash is a little longer than the hyphen and is used for date ranges, as well as Scripture references that include more than one verse. This dash is also used to show sports’ scores. Think of this dash as the word “to” in order to determine whether this dash is needed in your sentence. Examples:


May 3–4, 2018

Jeremiah 29:11–13

The team won 7–4.

An em dash is used often for instances like whole-word stutters, interruptions, and set-apart clauses. Examples:

I–I don’t understand.

“Wait a sec—”

If you don’t mind—and I’m not saying you would—here are the paint choices for this room.

“I can’t tell”—she motioned between us—“which one of you is lying.” (Notice the order here. The em dashes are outside the quotation marks on either side, because they are used to set off the gesture.)

Additional Information

There are also combined en dashes, and combined em dashes, but that’s getting a little involved for our needs. Fiction editors use the Chicago Manual of Style to ensure the proper use of dashes. You can learn more by studying CMS 6.75–94. 

Write on, friends!


Will keeping his promise lead to another broken heart—or help them find love again?

FLI Friday Harbor by Annette M. Irby
Professor Mikaela Rhoades has a plan: she’ll encourage her students’ marine biology research through an exclusive program while helping an old family friend’s whale touring business stay afloat. The challenge is the tour captain is her first love and ex-fiancĂ©. Mikaela longs to help his family in the wake of his father’s death, but she’s keeping secrets. She’ll have to face her past and overcome her concerns about the future to make it through the summer. 
Captain Hunter Cahill has taken over the family touring business after his father’s death. Unfortunately, he’s drowning in grief and debts. He’s hoping the incoming stodgy professor will help resurrect the failing business, but he’s not prepared when that professor turns out to be Mikaela, his former fiancĂ©e. To make matters more difficult, he’d promised his father to pursue her if she ever returned to the island single. The more time they spend together, the easier it is to keep that promise, though she still plans to leave at the end of the season. How much will it cost him to spend the summer romancing Mikaela?
Annette M. Irby
Annette M. Irby has been writing since her teen years when she sat pounding out stories on a vintage typewriter just for fun. Since then, she’s joined Christian writing groups and launched blogs so she could share the joy of writing. She likes to say she’s addicted to color as flowers and seascapes inspire her. In her off hours, she enjoys gardening, photography, and music. She lives with her husband and family in the Pacific Northwest.
Learn more on her Seriously Write Page.
Links to connect with Annette:

Twitter: @AnnetteMIrby
Facebook Reader Friends Group:

Photo credit: Pixabay
Author photo credit: Sarah Irby of Irby Photography

Friday, September 22, 2017

When Hurricanes Blow Away Your Writing Schedule by C. Kevin Thompson

C. Kevin Thompson
There is little out there more trying on the patience of a person than preparing for a hurricane. In the week to ten days prior to the event, you are watching forecasts, being told how big the storm is, how destructive it is. There’s the dizzying array of “spaghetti models” showing the storm going one way, then another, and another.

At first, Hurricane Irma was going to hit New York. Be another Sandy. Then, it shifted. The people of the Carolinas took notice. Yet again, it shifted. East coast of Florida. West coast of Florida. Then, right up the middle of the state.

During this time, people started to panic as Irma became the most publicized, advertised, and glamorized storm of all time. An estimated five million people headed north. For those who stayed, generators disappeared. Gasoline disappeared. Store shelves looked like Looter Central. I laughed when I went to our local store two days before the storm hit. Even when supplies are scarce, there were kinds of bread and certain types of paper goods nobody apparently wanted. A First-World problem, for sure.

But once you are as prepared as you can be, you still have to live through the storm. Bands of rains influenced by Irma swept across our area Saturday evening, Sept. 10. The outer bands got here on Sunday. By Sunday night, the winds picked up with gusts of 50-60 mph. The power went out at 1:23 a.m., ninety minutes before the eye plowed directly over our area.

By late Monday morning, the winds were still gusty, but the threats were gone, or so we thought. A fifty-foot oak tree that was already leaning toward our house had shifted at least two feet more, and the roots had uprooted partially. This was in addition to a shattered kitchen window suffered during the peak of the storm and what I estimate is 15-20 pick-up truck loads of debris scattered across our yard.

Our power remained off until Wednesday afternoon while heat indexes of 102 plagued our area.

Now (Saturday, Sept. 16), we’re getting back to normal. The Leaning Tree of Lake Thompson is gone. Tree service took it down Wednesday. About 60 percent of the debris is picked up and stacked out by the road, but I’m running out of lot frontage. The piles range from five to eight feet high and are anywhere from four to ten feet wide. FEMA trucks will pick it all up in about a month or two.

Oh, the window is fixed, too.

But one thing that still needs repair is my writing schedule. I’m a good 10,000 words behind, and finding time to be creative is at a premium right now. Especially when you are physically and emotionally drained. (And yet, we didn’t suffer anything like the folks in south Florida—Naples area—or those in Houston. Please pray for those affected.)

But like everything that is important, I’ll find the time. Somehow. Some way. I’ll figure out how to up my word count some days until I’m back on track. Why? Because that’s what writers do. They write. Even if it is only ten words.

And it will probably be awhile before I complain about all the usual, minor things I complain about that get in my way.

It’s amazing how life-changing events help to refocus our lives.

Maybe that’s why God allows them to happen.

Something ominous lurks under the waters.

Dr. Evelyn Sims, a brilliant marine biologist, is being watched. Her husband's mysterious death at sea—with the only survivor of the Greenback telling a shocking, unbelievable tale—has thrown her personal life into chaos. Her scientific views are being scrutinized. Her husband's office and their home are investigated. Called in by the FBI to help solve the mystery, Evelyn is thrust into her toughest research project ever...and forced into a maze of deception and betrayal.

Micah Gregson, the Coast Guard captain who rescued the Greenback, is determined to find out why a special unit at the FBI—the one assigned to cryptozoological cases—is involved.

Together Evelyn and Micah will uncover a plot more deadly than anything the ocean could ever produce. One that will either save Evelyn's life and redeem her career, or destroy everything she—and myriad others—stand for.

C. KEVIN THOMPSON is an ordained minister with a B.A. In Bible (Houghton College, Houghton, NY), an M.A. in Christian Studies (Wesley Biblical Seminary, Jackson, MS), and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership (National-Louis University, Wheeling, IL). He presently works as an assistant principal in a middle school.

His Blake Meyer series is out! 30 Days Hath Revenge - A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1, is now available! Book 2 of the Blake Meyer Series, Triple Time, is now available! Book 3, The Tide of Times, will be out Labor Day weekend! Also, the second edition of his award-winning debut novel, The Serpent’s Grasp, is now available!

Kevin is a huge fan of the TV series 24, The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, and Criminal Minds, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic, too.

To connect with Kevin and learn more, please visit:

Kevin’s Writer’s Blog:
Facebook:                              C. Kevin Thompson – Author Fan Page  
Twitter:                                  @CKevinThompson
Goodreads:                            C. Kevin Thompson

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Where Does that Grin Come From? by Kathy Carlton Willis

I’m often asked, “How can you keep grinning despite the challenges in your life? It has nothing to do with me. It has to do with the God in whom I put my trust. Knowing “He’s got this” helps me carry on (in hope) rather than to carry on (complain)!

Grinning instead of grimacing comes from the discipline of thinking on glorious victorious thoughts outside the current stinky situation.

First I get my imaginary lariat out and wrangle those negative thoughts that attempt to defeat me.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV)

Once I evict those destructive thoughts, I fill the void with healthful and helpful thoughts. Thoughts that line up with the mind of Christ.

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. ...Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8b-9 NLT)

If I practice this passage in Philippians, it might look something like this. I’m going to fix my thoughts on what is:

  • True: I remember the extreme way God answered my prayer to provide for our family.
  • Honorable: I’m blown away by the way that writer stays humble when others try to put her on a pedestal.
  • Right: I respect the decision this politician made to choose an unpopular but godly path.
  • Pure: How precious the gift of life is when I see photos of the much prayed for Lyla.
  • Lovely: How beautiful are the wildflowers dressing up that field.
  • Admirable: I see integrity in the choice Russ made to not malign a wrongdoer.
  • Excellent: I respect how she endures through her weight-training routine.
  • Worthy of praise: God’s faithfulness is something I can count on.
 Are you having a hard time grinning this week? What will your fix list look like?

About the Author:
God’s Grin Gal, Kathy Carlton Willis, shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s a popular speaker and writer’s coach. Read her book, Grin with Grace, or find more information at:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Ten Things About Writing by Jana Kelley

“Put your fingers on the keyboard and your feet flat on the floor!”

Mrs. Cohen, my high school typing teacher, made herself famous with this phrase. And sometimes, that’s precisely how you get started.

You’ve got an idea: you’ve talked about it with others, you’ve read about it, dreamed about it, and envisioned your yet-unwritten-novel selling like hotcakes. At some point (how about today?), put your fingers on the keyboard and do it. That’s what I did four years ago, when I sat down to write my first novel. Did those initial pages make it into the published version? Thank goodness, no. But I would not be holding my published novel in my hands now if I hadn’t put my fingers on the keyboard and started.

That’s the first lesson I’ve learned: Just start already!

Here are nine more things I’ve learned about writing since that day that I took my typing teacher’s advice:

1. Set a goal. It can be a daily word count, or an amount of time you plan to set aside. If you don’t set a goal, you won’t get anything done.

2. Write before checking email and social media, which are rabbit holes. If you don’t, you’ll emerge hours later, dazed and wondering what happened to your morning. Write first, then you can go down all the rabbit holes you want.

3. Keep a notebook (or several). I have a small notebook in my purse for jotting down ideas that come to me when I am away from the computer. I keep a larger one for each writing project. Those hold notes from phone calls with my editor, diagrams, sketches, and lists of things I need to research or correct.

4. If you enjoy writing you won’t run out of ideas, you’ll just start seeing more things around you as potential subjects to write about. Annie Dillard says, “Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.”

5. Take time off. You write better after a break.

6. Let others read your work and offer their thoughts. Swallow your pride and listen to feedback. I like to have a professional editor but also beta-readers (regular folks who are willing to read my stuff and give me feedback).

7. Join groups (online or in person), competitions, clubs, or take a writing class. Be a learner.

8. Free-write. Choose a topic and then set a timer for ten minutes. Type about the topic until the timer beeps. No editing, rewriting, or stopping to think. Just type. You’ll be amazed what comes out of your head and lands on the computer screen when you give your mind and hands freedom. Try it! Free-writing is my favorite thing to do.

9. Back up your work. Back up in several places. It stinks to lose your work. Trust me.

What have you learned from your writing journey?


Jana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life. Her love for writing came soon after. Jana returned to Texas to attend East Texas Baptist University. She and her husband married a month after she graduated, and by their second anniversary, they lived in a remote African town. After 13 years in Africa and the Middle East, Jana, her husband, and their three boys moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live. Jana is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, a blogger, and a contributor to Voices of the Faithful by Beth Moore (Books 1 &2). She is the author of two devotional books and three novels. Jana loves to connect with her readers. You can learn more about her at

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

We Can Be Part of Something Big by Zoe M. McCarthy

My seven-year-old grandson wanted to understand what he’d heard about our presidential candidates lying. I was saddened. What thoughts, opinions, and lessons was my grandson absorbing from the hubbub about two prominent people that he should be able to respect and follow as role models?
Zoe M. McCarthy

I felt helpless. What could I do to stop all the sinfulness this and other nations are choosing, the most harmful being the turning away from God?

Then I read two short devotionals on opposite pages in Today God Wants You to Know… You Are Loved by Laura Wegner.

The first devotional offered 1 Peter 5:10-11 from The Message. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.

Ms. Wegner titled the following devotional, “You Are Part of Something Big.” She wrote: “No circumstances or person will ever be strong enough to push our God out of the way. Even His haters will ultimately bow their knee before His throne. So when the going gets tough, always remember that, in the end, God wins.”

That was a comforting reminder, but that didn’t ease my helplessness to change things for the better.

Ms. Wegner titled the opposite page, “You Can Bring Heaven to Earth.” The Scripture she chose was Matthew 6:10 from the New Living Translation. “May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” She followed the Scripture with the words below.

“God wants you to be a part of His work on earth. He longs for you to exercise your faith in His will. This is because God has included us in His plans through our prayers. Our prayers enable us to access God in heaven. What a privilege!

If you want something from heaven to come to earth, pray. Entreat God to make it happen.”

I believe in prayer. So, I turned up the heat in prayer for our country and other nations, for Christians, for my church, and for Jesus’ great commission*. Also, I can be a role model for my grandchildren and others, so I pray about that too. I am part of something big.

How are you part of something big?

*“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

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, September 18, 2017

Weight Lifting by Marianne Evans

Marianne Evans
We’re going through an exercise at my 9 to 5 workplace that’s transforming our company from being paper-driven to being more streamlined, and paperless. It’s amazing how much stuff built, then tagged along with me over the seventeen-year span of my career.

It occurs to me. Maybe ‘weight lifting’ opportunities like this are a way for God to speak to me not just about the material objects I’ve accumulated, but about the way ‘weight lifting’ can also have a profound impact on me as a writer.

This summer has been one unlike any I’ve ever experienced. It featured deep sorrow and heartache when we suddenly and unexpectedly lost a precious family member, my brother-in-law, John. It featured the joy of renewal when my sister, Mary and I, went to Italy afterward. Mary was his wife, and together we laughed and cried and bonded over…writing! God has called her to create a book describing her journey through grief and into an even deeper faith in Christ and she’s using a teaching grant she won to accomplish that goal. I’m honored she asked for my input and guidance.

The following month I attended Romance Writers of America’s national conference in Orlando, Florida. I received enthusiastic responses from an editor and agent on my book pitch. Great news, yes, but terrifying as well. A one-month deadline had to be strictly enforced. Praise to God alone, I made it.

In the meantime…

I took the trip of a lifetime with my daughter to London and Paris (like I said, a summer unlike any other). We prowled the city streets, savored every sight, every shared moment, and I came away invigorated to create.

But where was the time, the energy to do so? I felt weighted down, and overwhelmed, by everything I’d experienced over the past several months and unsure how to center myself and focus.

I prayed—hard—because I was on overload. That's when change happened. Once I went still, and lifted away everything that was holding me back from my writing, I could laser-focus, and sink back into my stories. The result? The words are pouring out of me—again, praise to God alone. Trimming my life to two goals lifted the stress away. I had to say ‘no’ a few times, but with purpose and commitment to what I long to accomplish as an author. There’s no guilt in that. Nothing for which to apologize. The process is ongoing, however, and something to which I dedicate myself each time I sit down to write.

How about you? Are you facing a similar challenge? What discipline are you using to overcome? What things—be they material or psychological—are you moving past so that you can share your stories with the world? I’m eager to hear, and am praying for blessings on your journey, friends!

The Fairytale by Marianne Evans
Amy Monarch is a tireless volunteer at the Dupont Rescue and Recovery Center, an establishment for the destitute founded by her mother. There, Amy has kept her identity a carefully guarded secret. She is actually Princess Amelia Marguerite Louise DeLaGrande of Remeth. Working at Dupont offers the opportunity to serve in blessed disguise.

Fresh into a promising career in commercial real estate brokerage, Patrick Sawyer returns to the picturesque isle of Remeth intending to reconnect with his collegiate study abroad friends and figure out ‘what’s next’ in his life. Since his father’s passing, the world he knows leaves him uninspired. He volunteers at Dupont during his visit, and becomes enchanted by Amy.

But Amelia is trapped within a silken web. When she reveals who she is, Patrick pulls back. He’s not interested in royalty—at all—but how can she ever break free? How can she find a way to service and God’s plan for her life? Most of all, how can she reconcile the call she feels toward a remarkable man who may be ‘common,’ yet is ‘uncommon’ when it comes to matters of the heart?


Marianne Evans is an award-winning author of Christian romance and fiction. Her hope is to spread the faith-affirming message of God’s love through the stories He prompts her to create. Readers laude her work as “Riveting,” “Realistic and true to heart,” “Compelling.” Her Christian fiction debut, Devotion, earned the Bookseller’s Best Award as well as the Heart of Excellence Award. Her follow-up novel, Forgiveness, earned Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year honors as did her book Hearts Communion. She is also a two-time recipient of the Selah Award for her books Then & Now and Finding Home. Marianne is a lifelong resident of Michigan and an active member of Romance Writers of America, most notably the Greater Detroit Chapter where she served two terms as President. You can connect with Marianne at