Writing: Resolutions & Misconceptions

Writing, wow, who knew there would be such challenges to getting it done?

I’d like a hot cup of coffee, a nice QUIET place to write, and a three to four hour daily block of time to pour out the most inspired writing of my life.

And all writers start laughing now.

After a great wrestle, and I do mean GREAT, I’m resolved to the fact that there’s never going to be a perfect time or place to write.

‘Tis life, and ‘Tis the season of a bit more craziness than usual.

While I may get that cup of coffee, that nice QUIET place and 3-4 hours of daily writing time simply isn’t in my deck of cards at the moment. Even IF that perfect time/place existed, inspired writing isn’t something that often happens, nor is it necessary for writing to occur.

Life-Stuff happens y’all. The past year and a half has been emotionally and spiritually taxing. I can’t believe how much it’s impacted my ability to write, or the lack there of.

Though it’s been over a year since my mother-in-law passed away from cancer, we are all still very much grieving and dealing with the aftermath of her death. Five months after her passing, my dad suffered a heart-attack and nearly died. Praise the Lord he survived and is doing well. I also went from being a full-time writer and stay at home mom & wife to a full-time teacher, writer, mom & wife, which is a whole new world of crazy. And Just this week we quite unexpectedly assumed guardianship of our two nieces making our family of four now a family of six.  So much to process, but wow, God is SOOO Good! Sooo good. So so so good. Unbelievably good. Will definitely have to catch y’all up on just how good soon! Anyway, I digress.

I’ve prioritized, said no to things I would have usually agreed to in the realm of volunteering, but I still find myself in the juggle struggle fighting for the time to write.

I don’t have, and more than likely won’t have, the ideal writing circumstances that my mind dreams up. But what do I have? Well, looking at my calendar for the school year…I do have a window of time…about a 50 minute chunk in the afternoons four days a week where I can write in my classroom after school, door closed, lights off, before I have to pick up my kiddos from school. Score!

I also have three Sunday’s a month from 7pm-9pm (sometimes until 10pm!) available to write/plot etc. Double Score!

Now…how to be”inspired” when I sit to write? First thing to do is kick that whole concept of inspiration out the window. Here’s what I’m gonna do:

1: Sit:  So, from 2:45 to 3:35 I will be in the back of my classroom with my computer, and will turn off the wifi. (Sometimes I have to check my email like 100 times when writing… or Facebook…or Instagram…you know, just because. So wifi has to go!)

2: Pray: “God, it’s just you and me creating this story, so help me out, ’cause I’m totally not feeling the inspiration thing”

3: Write:  Write even if it’s the worst writing ever. The goal is to slap down a 1,000 words in that 50 minute session and close the computer at 3:35. If I don’t hit a 1,000, well I hit something and that’s better than a big-fat-zero.

4: Repeat & adjust the writing times as seasons of life come and go.

What will happen to my writing schedule during summer break? I will adjust it accordingly in May as school draws to an end (18 weeks y’all!! Countdown!). Maybe I will get that 3-4 hour chunk of daily writing time then! Woohoo!

Here it is then. I’m resolved to:

1: Sit

2: Pray

3: Write

4: Repeat

Now that I’m resolved, I’m gonna bring some accountability to this deal. I know just the person…a fellow writer, with writing goals of her own.

The juggle struggle is real y’all, but there’s something to be said for setting goals, making priorities, accountability, and getting it done.

What are your writing goals? What’s your writing schedule like? How do you fight and make time to write? I’d love to hear your feedback. 🙂

Happy New Year!


About the Author:

Hannah Conway is a military wife, mother of two, middle school teacher, and speaker. Her novels are a deployment experience of their own, threaded with faith, and filled with twists and turns sure to thrill, and encourage. Hannah is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and My book Therapy. She and her family live near Nashville, Tennessee.

Check out her latest release, Up in Smoke ! Love it? Leave a Review on Amazon and let the world know!

Sweet Surrender : eBook Giveaway & Guest Post By Author Cynthia Roemer

Hello Dear Readers! I’m honored to have my friend and fellow author, Cynthia Roemer as a guest blogger today! She’s also been so gracious to host a GIVEAWAY for her debut novel “Under This Same Sky”! Keep reading and then enter below! AND if you have a moment, hop on over to her site today where I’m offering a giveaway for my latest novel “Up in Smoke” CLICK HERE. It’s a swip-swap giveaway!

Surrendering our lives to God never comes easily. If you’re like me, you can give a situation to the Lord only to take it back again and again in a tug-of-war for control. I suppose that’s why I wrote about the theme of total surrender in my debut novel, Under This Same Sky.

My heroine, Becky Hollister, doesn’t willingly choose to surrender her will to God; instead, adverse circumstances compel her to choose between entrusting her life to Him or turning her back on her faith. It’s touch and go for a while. After enduring great suffering and loss, Becky questions how a loving God can allow such hurtful events to happen.

Under This Same Sky takes readers on a journey alongside Becky as she works through her resentment toward God and seeks to determine what His will for her might be. But just as in real life, it takes the wisdom of God’s word and the love of friends (and in Becky’s case, a godly man) to pull her through.

Becky’s story is a tale of friendship and love, but even more so, it’s a quest for wholeness and deeper understanding of a God who longs to hold the deepest desires of her heart. Fully surrendering to the Lord is something I believe we all struggle to achieve. I hope you’ll be encouraged by Becky’s story and the message of surrender it conveys.


  1. Why do you write?

Since my college days, I’ve had the dream of writing novels. I can only explain it as something God placed within me to do. I long to touch the hearts of readers by letting them experience growth and healing in the lives of my characters.

  1. What do you love best about your novel?

It would have to be its message—that of surrendering to God, despite our circumstances. There are so many hurting people who don’t understand why God allows bad things to happen. While my novel doesn’t attempt to answer that question, it does seek to demonstrate that God is able to work through our hardships to draw us closer to Him.

  1. What encouraging word would you like to give to others?

I’d like to encourage others to live their dream for God. Whatever He has placed on your heart to do, work toward it, allowing room for His timing. When we seek God’s blessing in what we do, He will be faithful to walk beside us. He gives us each our own special set of skills and traits. It’s up to us to discover how He can best put them to use.


Under This Same Sky Book Blurb:

~ She thought she’d lost everything ~ Instead she found what she needed most. ~

Illinois ~ 1854

Becky Hollister wants nothing more than to live out her days on the prairie, building a life for herself alongside her future husband. But when a tornado rips through her parents’ farm, killing her mother and sister, she must leave the only home she’s ever known and the man she’s begun to love to accompany her injured father to St. Louis.

Catapulted into a world of unknowns, Becky finds solace in corresponding with Matthew Brody, the handsome pastor back home. But when word comes that he is all but engaged to someone else, she must call upon her faith to decipher her future.




Cynthia Roemer is an award-winning inspirational writer with a heart for scattering seeds of hope into the lives of readers. Raised in the cornfields of rural Illinois, Cynthia enjoys spinning tales set in the backdrop of the 1800s prairie. She writes from her family farm in central Illinois where she resides with her husband and their two college-aged sons. Under This Same Sky is her debut novel.





Contact Links:

Website:  http://cynthiaroemer.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCynthiaRoemer/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com@cynthiaroemer 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35002701-under-this-same-sky?from_search=true


Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/Under-This-Same-Cynthia-Roemer-ebook/dp/B06XZNPSRR/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492640140&sr=8-1&keywords=under+this+same+sky




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Marriages Up in Smoke

No one gets married with the intent of getting divorced…I take that back. Leanna and Garrison, the characters in my latest novel, “Up in Smoke” do. And actually, I’ve heard stories of other couples that have done the same thing. Crazy, right?

But, for the most part, I’d say it’s safe to say that MOST couples never intend to divorce. However, nearly 50% of couples will divorce.


It breaks my heart.

It seems everywhere I turn, marriages are falling a part…even the couples in our church are being struck down. Why? Why is this happening? I get that things happen, people make choices, and sometimes choices are made for us against our will.

I’m tapping my pencil, clicking my tongue, wracking my brain trying to grasp why so many marriages are going up in smoke…here’s what I’ve come up with…

1: Transparency

As a society we tend to act like we’re okay when we’re not. Marriage is hard, and it’s okay to admit that, and it’s okay to get help, and glean from the wisdom of others.

2: Sanctity

Perhaps as a society we don’t understand the sanctity of marriage…it’s holiness. It’s a God ordained institution…a ’til death do us part deal. It’s worth our attention, our devotion, our time, energy, and our priority.

3: Purpose

Maybe we don’t understand the purpose of marriage. There’s an end goal, a goal that reaches past our life and into the generations to come. Marriage is a reflection of God’s love for us, and it also serves a safe, strong environment to raise up children. Our actions, good and bad, will be seen for years to come…we are a product of our ancestors, and we have a job to raise up the next generation teaching them about God, and showing them what relationships are meant to be.

I can analyze why marriages are struggling, but that doesn’t help us know HOW to stay together. HOW do we do ’til death do us part and not do it in misery?

1: Be transparent: plug in to a church or solid group of friends; share and care for each other

2: Realize the sanctity of marriage; care for your marriage; protect it; go on dates; make each other a priority

3: Realize marriage has a purpose; it’s worth the ups and downs; it means something that we can’t even really begin to grasp; it’s purpose reaches into the generations…we shape the future with our marriages.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, advice on this topic. 🙂 Any ways you have made your marriage stronger? Need us to pray for your marriage? Let us know. 🙂



Teaching Tools for the Writer: Become a Dynamic Speaker by Adding SPICE!

Recently, I wrote a post for ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) called Teaching Tools for Writers: 4 Steps to Building a Public Speaking Platform. Check it out here.

The focus was on building a speaking platform focusing using four steps.

Today I’d like to focus on sharpening our public speaking skills and wowing our audience with engaging and interactive presentations.

As a 7th Grade World History Teacher, I’ve learned a few things about how to make an audience fall asleep and drool during class, and a few things that keep them on the edge of their seat wanting to know more.

Figured we don’t want to bore our audience to the point of drooling, so let’s add some SPICE, aka The Key To Awesome Presentations:







S: Short

If using a slide format to present, or providing handouts, keep the information as short as possible. We’re offering snippets, thoughts, bits of info, not a dissertation. Wordiness is killer on the attention span—even for adults. And, it’s insulting. Give one word, no more than six words per slide, and let the reader/student/attendee take notes based on what they find significant.

Fewer words also increase the likelihood of remembering.

Caveat: Some slides may include more words than six words. For example, a slide focusing on a particular scripture, or a slide with group discussion questions. But as a rule of thumb, work to keep the great majority of slides as short and sweet as possible.


P: Passion

Sometimes we need to tell our face that we’re having a good time. If we aren’t into what we’re speaking about, our audience won’t care either. Add passion. How? Well, sometimes it’s a fake it ‘til we make it thing where we are consciously making ourselves move around the room/stage. We are consciously adding dramatic pause, changing the pitch of our voice, adding facial expressions, even cracking jokes.

That may mean writing out the lesson word for word, and then reading over it aloud in order to get a feel of where elements of passion can be added. Over time, and with practice, passion will flow—we can’t help it, and when passion flows, it’s contagious!

I: Image

We are visual, and many of us are visual learners. We connect ideas, beliefs, and concepts to an image. That old saying “a picture is worth a 1,000 words” is pretty spot on. However, adding an image(s) to our presentation can evoke emotions. And when an emotional connection is made, coupled with a passionate presentation, and short snippets of info, BAM—something happens in our brain. Things stick better, which brings us to the C in SPICE:

C: Color

We should use color, and boldness, in our presentation.

For starters, no slide background should ever be plain ‘ole white. In fact, avoid a white background all together. Go with a colored background, and use white as the letter for a bold, memorable effect, if white is a must have.

Bold and enlarge the points we want our audience to remember, not the title. We don’t want them to remember the title of the presentation, but the concepts. So Bold, underline, and enlarge the font for those points.

Let’s recap.

Add SPICE to a Presentation

So far, we’ve learned to keep our presentation short using one word per concept, no more than six words per slide.

Adding passion is a must, and including an helps our audience make deeper connections to our presentation. We’ve also learned the benefits of using color and boldness. Now let’s look at the E in SPICE.

E: Experience

We want to allow our audience to experience the lesson or presentation. A mental field trip of sorts. How?

Tell stories. Tell stories that appeal to the senses: touch, sound, smell, taste, and site.

Stories, especially stories with drama, intrigue, romance, and action activate more parts of our brain allowing us to experience what we’re learning, which allows us to remember better. Jesus knew this, and taught with stories.

Where can an analogy, or personal story or testimony be added into the presentation?

Want to add a deeper level of audience experience? Add even more crowd interaction with Quizlet Live! Oh friends, the fun we have with this little gem! Used it not long ago while speaking at a Military Wives’ Conference, and it was a hit!  Any topic can be created from Bible Trivia, Elements of Plot Structure, The Point of This Lesson etc.  Want more info?

Stay tuned for my next post on Quizlet Live for the Speaker!

So, there it is! SPICE up your presentation and rivet your audience!


Want example of a presentation?

Check out one I recently used Here


Not sure what presentation format to use when prepping a talk?

Check out these Free or Nearly Free Presentation Formats that Rock!

  • PowerPoint is an oldie but goodie. Images, audio, and video can be added, and PowerPoint also has fun features that can add animation to each slide and/or point. Stick to the SPICE model, and it will provide a presentation that kicks, pops, and sparkles.
  • Google Sides is free on Googledocs and works very much like PowerPoint. I was raised on PowerPoint, so I’m not as savvy with Google Slides, but my students are pros at it, and actually like it better than PowerPoint. Not sure how to get started with Googledocs, which is awesome? Sign up for a Gmail email account…that’s it.
  • My personal FAVORITE presenting format is Prezi! It adds movement, color, images…oh I get all goose-pimply thinking about how great it is! It works very much like PowerPoint, and will admit there’s a little bit of a learning curve there, but it’s worth playing with. LOVE IT!


Prezi has a free version, and a paid version. So far I’ve only used the free templates. Check this one out!


Hope you found this post helpful!! Feel free to share this post, leave comments or questions.


Many Blessings,

Hannah R. Conway

Military Wife, Momma, Author, Speaker, Teacher, Lover of coffee, chocolate and books!

Join my Letting Freedom Newsletter Here!

Need something else to do? Why not Help me Launch my latest book, Up in Smoke, coming out this Summer! You’ll get a FREE Advanced Reader ECopy!  Join the Launch Team: Conway’s Convoy here!

Looking for a Speaker at your next event, conference, book club or conference? I’m in! Let’s chat! Contact me here!


Author Interview with Lauren Brandenburg & Book Giveaway!

Hey y’all! Today we’re getting to know fellow author, speaker, and educator, Lauren Brandenburg! 

Lauren will be giving a copy of her latest release “Orlo the Created”. Be sure to enter to win below!

Welcome Lauren!

Lauren is a speaker and advocate for home education, as well as author of the middle-grade series The Books of the Gardener and creative writing curriculum, The Engaged Writer. Her novels are recognized as a “Top Safe Read” and “Top Read Aloud” for young readers in the homeschool community. She is active in ACFW and Masterpiece Ministries. Lauren and her husband, Jamie, live in Nashville, Tennessee with their two children.

Tell us about your latest novel, writing project etc and any personal inspiration behind it.

Oh, how I would love to give you all the details! But as it is currently being shopped, I think it wise to hold off a bit. I will say that it is an adult contemporary and probably my most favorite piece I have ever written. There are glimpses of my own story in the midst of massive financial loss, sprinkled with some larger than life characters, a lovely town, and a flea market . . . and macaroons. Yes, macaroons are very important!

Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

Happy to share! I am currently cleaning up my fifth children’s novel—Orlo: The Burdened, outlining the sixth in the series—Orlo: The Chosen, and brainstorming the follow-up to my adult contemporary (it’s my happy place).

What is your favorite scripture and why?

Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

When I am afraid or worried, the Father reminds me to think on what is true—it has helped me through many dark moments. Recently, the idea of dwelling on things that are lovely has consumed me in such a fun, calming way. I have found peace in thinking on the lovely, finding the joy in simplicity, and looking beyond that which is not glorifying to our Father. Think lovely thoughts!

Are there things you put off doing because you dread them? (ie I can’t stand to fold socks. Torture!)

Folding! I am 100% guilty of leaving clothes in the dryer and running it multiple times until I finally feel like folding them. I’ve also been known to stuff said clean dry clothes in a laundry basket then three days later-ish have to put them back in the dryer for fluffing and wrinkle releasing. Oh, and the words “Have you checked in the dryer?” have come out of my mouth on multiple occasions as my kiddos search for martial arts uniforms, socks, undies, etc. (The dryer just now buzzed as I am typing this! LOL It’s a first round dry, but since there are wet items in the washer, into the basket the dry clothes will go!)

Are you a veteran or do you have someone in your family that served in the Military? Tell us a little bit about your service or their service; it’s our way of honoring you/them. 
I’ve always told people that I grew up I a military family even though my dad was unable to directly serve. My brother currently serves in the Navy, my grandfather served in the Army during WWII, my uncle is a retired Army Ranger, and my other uncle serves in the National Guard. As a young child my dad contracted hystoplasmosis  (my entire childhood I was forbidden to pick up a feather or play in our attic because of it). The illness left my dad’s lungs so scarred that on an x-ray it appeared that he once had tuberculosis. Because of the scarring, my dad was not permitted to actively serve our country in the armed forces. However, he raised me to honor our leaders, respect our military, and respect our country’s flag—I’d say he served his country well.

If you could switch genres in your writing, in which genre would you choose to write your next novel? 
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I thought that I would always write for children. I had accepted it as my identity and envisioned many book signings chatting with young fans. Not once did I see myself writing for adults, but then . . . But then I shared a wild idea with my agent. She encouraged me to get it on paper and test-drive it before several publishing houses. Along the way, I think I found myself. I had many real conversations with the Father about who I was trying to be and the design he actually had in mind. So a genre switch . . . how about Children’s Speculative to Adult Humorous Duel Timeline! I’ll finish my children’s series, but I have a feeling I will land somewhere else.

Let’s play a game of favorites! Feel free to elaborate.

Favorite Dessert: Chocolate. Oh wait, I should be more specific . . . Chocolate Cake (unless it is winter and then a cozy cup of Mexican Hot Chocolate will do the trick). But if it is my birthday, Red Velvet Cake (It’s really chocolate cake dyed red with a unique cream cheese icing, so it counts as chocolate, right?)

Favorite Restaurant: Banana Leaf Modern Thai in Cincinnati! (BEST CURRY EVER!)

Favorite Branch of the Military (I won’t judge you if say anything other than Army) : Navy (Shout out to my baby brother!)

Favorite Genre of Music:Alternative (Is that still a genre?) My daughter and I are on a Twenty-One Pilots kick right now! Rumors that make it okay to listen to this band: One of them was homeschooled. One was a youth pastor. Their music has Christian overtones.

Favorite Subject in School: English (I have no fun comments on this, just English.)
Connect with Lauren:

Email – Lauren@TBOTG.com

Amazon (Orlo: The Created) – https://goo.gl/j0F25R
 We’ve had such a great time getting to know Lauren! Enter to win a copy of “Orlo the Created” below!

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Breathing on Her Own: Lessons from My Firstborn “Bookchild”

Today we welcome Author, and Speaker, Rebecca Waters! Rebecca has valuable insight to share, and a FREE COPY OF HER NOVEL, Breathing on Her Own. Rebecca, thank you for joining us today!
Breathing on Her Own: Lessons from My Firstborn “Bookchild”
Publishing that first novel is akin to raising your firstborn child. You do your best, make a few mistakes, and learn along the way.  Now that Breathing on Her Own is a three-year-old, I’m prepared to offer other fledgling parents of books my sage advice.

Lesson 1 Birthing a “Bookchild” Requires Preparation

First time parents want to do this whole baby thing right. Moms exercise and eat healthy. Dads dutifully paint the nursery. The couple reads everything they can about raising children and they spend long hours discussing the child’s name. 

In the same way, writers seeking to be authors need to exercise their writing muscle in order to draft that sweet manuscript. They must purposefully study the craft of writing and nuances of publishing. Writers need to identify their strengths and weaknesses and create a plan to improve as a writer. Choosing the title will emerge as the story unfolds. When I embarked on crafting that first novel, I created a business plan for my writing. I budgeted my time to study writing and publishing and engaged daily in writing exercises.

Lesson 2 Nobody’s “Bookchild” is Perfect

You wrote it. You love it. I get it. However, nobody births a perfect “bookchild.” Even the best of the best authors must revise and edit their work on a constant basis. I worked hard on that first novel to write a compelling story. I was sure I nailed it. When my publisher introduced me to my editor I waited for her to rave about the book. Fortunately, she knew her job was to polish my work not to caress my ego. Working with a professional editor may be painful or even costly. Think of it as putting braces on your child to correct the overbite. Healthy straight teeth improve speech quality, digestion, and physical appearance. A professional edit will allow your voice to be heard. It will give your manuscript the look and feel of a successful book.

Lesson 3 Not Everyone on the Playground Will Choose Your “Bookchild”

Once I decided to become an author I attended a writing conference. I hadn’t finished the first draft of Breathing on Her Own but was very close to the end. I pitched the book to agents and acquisition editors for publishing houses. I practiced what is called an elevator pitch. The first two agents interrupted me about halfway through my pitch. The next one and a couple of the publishers offered a kind word but a firm no. My last appointment was with Eddie Jones of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He listened. He read the chapters I sent him. Two months later I had a contract. Not everyone will choose your book, but it only

takes one.

March 24th marks the third anniversary of the release of Breathing on Her Own. In celebration, my publisher is offering a freecopy of the book today! Grab it nowon Amazon.

Are you an aspiring author? I would love to hear from you. How are you spending these months of preparation to birth your own “bookchild?”

Interview with Rebecca: 

1: Tell us about your latest novel, writing project etc and any personal inspiration behind it.

My husband died in a bicycle accident a few months after Breathing on Her Own released. That has been the hardest experience of my life. I put my novels on the back burner. I have a strong following on my blog, A Novel Creation, a background in education, and experience as a speaker. I’m often asked to speak to groups about the writing and publishing process. As a result, I recently published three handbooks for writers: Designing a Business Plan for Your Writing, Marketing You and Your Writing 101, and Writing with E’s. Proceeds from these books go to the Thomas R. Waters Memorial Scholarship for Ergonomics Research set up by the CDC Foundation.

2. What is your favorite scripture and why?

Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, do it heartily as for the Lord and not for men.” I claim this verse in every area of my life. In school I applied it to every assignment, always trying to do my best. Even if I didn’t like the teacher, I wrote the paper for God. What a difference that made! As a young wife I could sometimes feel unappreciated by my husband who tramped across the newly scrubbed kitchen floor with his muddy shoes. But when I scoured the floor for God, my feelings changed. He appreciated what I did. I now apply this to my writing as well. An agent may not like my book, but that’s okay. I didn’t write it for him!

3. I love hearing how God has set people free. There’s so much more to freedom than patriotism. Would you share a time with us when you experienced God’s freedom? 

I love this question. It is interesting to me because of the timing. As I’ve shared, my husband died quite suddenly in 2014. He and I had been married for 43 years. I’ve clung to passages about God’s care for me and that He has a plan for me. It’s been hard.  I relied on Tom for so much. Recently I heard a message about Lot’s wife. I never had much respect for Mrs. Lot. After all, she was told to not look back but did so anyway. She deserved being turned into a pillar of salt, right? Curious. The minister mentioned that aspect of disobedience, but said it wasn’t that she looked back with her eyes. She looked back with her heart. She looked back and longed for a life she couldn’t have. For me, a life I had enjoyed but one that could never be again. Don’t misunderstand. I will never forget Tom. He will always be a part of me, but now I am leaning on God more. I’m seeking His counsel and trusting His judgment more. I’m no longer looking at the plumber and wondering what Tom would do. There is a newfound freedom in that. Knowing that God has my back and He is all-powerful to care for me? Yes, that is true freedom. 

Rebecca Waters’ freelance work has resulted in articles for Chicken Soup for the Soul, the Lookout Magazine, The Christian Communicator, Church Libraries, and Home Health Aide Digest. Prior to publishing her first novel, Breathing on Her Own, Rebecca was a college professor and speaker on the Ohio Writing Project circuit.





Just Start: Giveaway & Writing Advice from Guest Blogger, and Author Cyn Taylor

Today we welcome guest blogger and author, Cyn Taylor! She’s got some great writing advice to share, AND she’s giving away a copy of  Book 1 in the Smoky Mountain Mist series, “Blue Mountain Sky”!! Enter to win below!

Many folks live by the mantra that life is all about the journey. As a writer, I disagree. The journey to becoming a published author is fraught with perils. Who wants to live like that?
Your book begins with joy and elation; much like bringing a first child into the world. (Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration — but it’s my analogy, and I’m sticking to it.)
Soon we come to the middle of our tale. Let’s correlate this period of writing with the teen years of the child you birthed earlier. Joy and elation gives way to gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair. This may be why there are so many bald authors.
We make it through the meat of our story. Whew! Now let’s wrap this up. However, finding the perfect ending can be as elusive as that candy bar that keeps sliding just out of reach under the seat of your car. Sure, you’re the one that hid it there due to a complete inability to share. However, you didn’t know at the time how far into the clutches of darkness a car floorboard could go.
Finally, the perfect words fly from your brain, down your arms and to your fingertips as you tap the computer keyboard as fast as the Flash can dart. The beginning is tempting, the middle moves the story along and the ending, well, IMPAC Dublin Award here we come.
Have a nice cup of tea and take a moment to catch your breath, because now the real work begins; finding a publisher that agrees with your assessment of the book. Once that happens (yes, sometimes fairy tales do come true) it’s on to the world of marketing. Let’s leave that experience for another day.
I wrote my first novel more than twenty-five years ago. I rewrote that book ten years ago. Then revised said book a couple of years ago. It wasn’t that I wanted to keep changing the story. I just wanted to be published.
Having first written the book as Romantic Fiction, I submitted it to Harlequin. Their response was along the lines of “We have numerous books at this point. We’ll get back to you.” They didn’t. Hence, the next rewrite.
Inspirational Romance was hitting the market big time. I moved my characters into a Christian setting, added suspense and a bit of humor. I got to know my characters better and felt an attachment to them. I submitted to various Christian publishers. Responses varied from “Not what we’re looking for at this time” to “We would love to help you self-publish.” BLAH!
When I took a job as a photojournalist for a community paper, I began looking at my book through the eyes of a reporter. Hence the next revision. That one was a mistake.
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My characters needed more depth. I tried reading Christian Romantic Fiction and found myself falling asleep. While this was good for my health, it did nothing towards helping me become a better writer.

A friend suggested I read Stephen King’s book On Writing.” I always found his stories terrifying and was never a fan. Now when I’m asked what helped me most in improving my writing I recommend this book. King is entertaining and the master at turning a phrase.
As I worked on redeveloping my first book, I had the idea of making it into a series set in the Great Smoky Mountains, my area. Before I had rewritten book one I was well on my way through books two and three. I had found my niche. I finished book one. Again. I started searching for a publisher. Again.
During this search, I received an assignment to interview a local author. I was impressed with her book so I bought it and saw her publisher listed.
I submitted my first book Blue Mountain Sky”to Mantle Rock Publishing in October of 2015. Editor Kathy Cretsinger liked it enough to send a contract. The book released July 2016. Book two in this series “Red Morning Glory” released January 2017. Book three “Dawn’s Gray Light” should be available later this year or early 2018. The genre is Faith-based Contemporary Romantic Suspense.
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So here we are at the end of this particular story. That of a published author. How do we wrap this up? Let’s not. As a believer, I know that our stories are never ending. We all play a small part in the greater story woven by God.

If you have words stuck in your head, get them out. Put them on paper. Record them. Share them. Open yourself up to change. Don’t be afraid to self-promote. You may write the next great American novel. You’ll never know if you don’t start.
Happy writing!
Cyn Taylor
Weaving fiction, speaking Truth


Cyn Taylor lives and plays in Knoxville Tennessee in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. She and husband Brent live on his family farm at the peak of Thunder Ridge along with a feral cat and other woodland creatures who come round to visit. They have two adult children and seven grandchildren. 
As a former freelance photo journalist, Cyn has written faith, community and feature articles.  
Cyn gets some of the best inspiration for her books when she accompanies Brent on fly fishing excursions to the Smokies. He fishes. She writes. Life is good.

Email:  cyntaylor2016@gmail.com
Web: cyntaylor2016.wix.com/blog
Instagram: Cyn Taylor author


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Writer Tips: The Why’s & Where-fore’s of Self-Editing

Today we welcome, Author Sara R. Turqnuist! Not only is she giving us some GREAT writing advice, but she’s also GIVING AWAY an eCopy or Print version of her latest release, Off to War, to ONE LUCKY WINNER! Enter to win below!

Writers Gotta Write, but Writers Gotta Edit Too! 

Hello! It is a privilege to be on Hannah’s blog today. And I want to share with fellow writers something that I find quite difficult, but rather necessary and very rewarding: self-editing.
In general, I find it, frankly, to be a time drag. It’s time, I think, that could be better spent creating new work. Imagine if I didn’t have to do any editing? How much quicker could I produce work? Wow! But the fact of the matter is, we all have to self-edit. It’s a vital part of getting the manuscript ready for an agent/publisher.


It makes your manuscript stronger. Editing helps catch mistakes we may have made in earlier drafts and alert us to gaps in the work. It basically allows us to present the best to a publisher or a potential agent/editor (whomever is reading your work). Especially if the manuscript was written a while ago and it has been resting. Or there has been more learning about craft in the meantime through online courses, workshops, or conferences. Bring that back to the manuscript – enhance and hone the work.

It is required by many publishers before they send it through their editing process. My publisher requires that a round of self-editing with their criteria and my own skills before I submit it to their three rounds of editing (content, line, and proofing). I have been surprised how many things I’ve caught between my editing before the initial submission and then self-editing with their criteria. And what they ask me to look for is basic stuff. It’s just stuff that a newbie (like me at the time) wouldn’t have thought about.

Look for Grammatical Errors. This one is a no-brainer. One of the things I have found that is helpful is to run your document through a couple of word processors. For example, I used to write in LibreOffice. Well, LibreOffice catches a certain set of things. Word will catch a set. Some of these things overlap, but some do not. Word will catch things that LibreOffice did not. So, it behooves me to put my document through Word also. And that’s only one example.

Check for flow. Another thing that is helpful and is great for checking flow is to read it out loud. It is equally amazing what can be caught that way. I know, it doesn’t seem that it would make that big of a difference. But it does. When going through the manuscript, make sure words are not repeated. Make sure to vary sentence beginnings. These are things that help with flow.

Double check for inconsistencies or content flaws. Be ever watchful for things missed when writing. Have eyes like a hawk when it comes to this. We all know in our heads how our story works out, but try to look at it as a reader, fresh to the page. If it’s not clear in the document, it’s not clear. If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist. A reader can’t ask for explanations.

Tighten where you can. There needs to be some flow to your manuscript, but it also need not be extraneously wordy. Jerry Jenkins gives wonderful tips about tightening, especially dialogue. You can check out his blog here. Extra words are sometimes that – extra words.
There are more, but these are the biggies. I also strongly encourage everyone to get more eyes on the work. Be that a critique group, critique partner, or beta readers. Someone else should look at it for the purpose of giving honest feedback. 

And that, my friends, is my two cents worth on self-editing. Happy writing!

Sara is the author of The Lady Bornekova, The General’s Wife, Hope in Cripple, and Off to War. A native of Middle Tennessee, Sara attended the University of Memphis where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology. In the years that followed, she utilized every opportunity she could to travel and she fell in love with history, as the many places she visited inspired the stories she would write. Though she is an avid reader, Sara enjoys many creative outlets – music, art, and drama. You can usually find her either writing or into her latest art project.

Connect with Sara:
 Website http://saraturnquist.com/   
  Email  sara.r.turnquist@gmail.com 
  Facebook AuthorSaraRTurnquist (https://www.facebook.com/authorsararturnquist/
  Twitter @sarat1701 (https://twitter.com/sarat1701 )
  Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/saravturnquist/

 Get to Know Sara:

1: Tell us about your latest novel, writing project etc and any personal inspiration

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behind it.

This book, Off to War, is about a young woman who must watch her best friend and beau leave for war. But she is not satisfied to stay behind. She sneaks off into the night and joins his camp’s Sanitary Commission (the women who followed the camps and cared for the men). A history program I saw that talked about women during the Civil War and their involvement in the war effort, specifically the Sanitary Commission, inspired me. I find that history itself provides plenty of inspiration!
2: Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

My work in progress is called Second Chances. It is about a woman in 1870s Arizona (during the time of Billy the Kidd) whose first husband dies and she is left with no other option to provide for she, her son, and her late husband’s small herd of cattle, but to remarry. Brandon, the man she marries, needs the cattle to increase his herd and raise his profits at auction in order to save his ranch. The inspiration for the story was a wondering about second marriages when the first spouse dies. Does the surviving spouse memorialize the first in the sense that she would glaze over the “bad” memories and only remember the good? Many people tend to do that. Could a second spouse, even when love blossoms between them, compete with that?
3: Do you have a favorite time of the day to write? What about a favorite place?
I don’t really have a favorite time of day to write…other than when my children are not around. That means that they are out of the house or unconscious (that means napping). I find I am more productive at a local coffee shop called Lasaters. They have these really comfortable booths that allow me to spread out my research and everything I need. I also have an office in my house that has proved productive. More than anything, it has been the discovery of Scrivener and it’s “Compose” mode that really helps. It blocks out the desktop and any pop ups. Wonderful!!
EXCERPT from Off to War
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        “I need you to be strong for me now, Lizzie.”

She wanted to. Breathing deeply, she attempted to rein in her emotions.  
All the while, he continued to rub her arms, her shoulders, pressing kisses to her forehead and her hair.
Why did he have to be so wonderful? Tears threatened to break through again, but she held them back.
Once she calmed, he used his finger to tilt her chin so she looked up at him. “Can you be strong for my parents?”
She knew what he meant. He spoke not only of today, but also if something were to happen to him. “Yes,” she lied.
“I know you can, even if you don’t,” he assured her, cupping her face.
She hung her head, fighting more tears.
“Write to me?” He hooked her chin with his finger so she had to look at him.
“Every day.”
“Wait for me?” he asked, his voice as tender as she’d ever heard it.
John’s face broke out in a slow smile at that.
Elizabeth allowed herself to get lost in his eyes. They belonged together. In that moment, she knew… that’s why he wasn’t afraid. He would return to her because he had to.
His lips met hers again in a gentle kiss.
She returned his kiss with everything she had, longing to communicate all of her love, all of her hopes and dreams in that one kiss.
When John broke contact, her head still spun.
“I must go.” He blinked, moving toward the door, his step wavering.
Was the room spinning for him, too?
“I carry you with me, Lizzie. Always and forever, remember?”
“Always and forever.” She fought down a fresh wave of emotion, refusing to cry in front of him again.
He reached over and pulled her to him for another quick kiss. 
Then he was gone, and she was alone.

Readers can purchase Off to War HERE, or enter to win a copy by entering below!

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Thankful: Awe-filled Moments from God

Teaching, while writing novels, is a lot like giving birth while trying to read & comprehend the IRS’s 60,000-page tax laws.  Good times, ya’ll.
The crazy thing is, I honestly enjoy both writing and teaching. There are these treasures… these awe-filled moments God decides to toss my way, because He loves me. Moments like:

*Getting an email from a reader who’s a new Army Wife and was encouraged by my books. Wow!

*Doing a happy dance with a struggling student after they conquered the exam! Victories feel amazing!

*And sitting at a parent/teacher meeting with a couple who have taken it upon themselves to care for someone else’s child’s grades and well-being because “this child is worth it.” Moved. To. Tears.

I’m overwhelmed by the way God loves me. His gifts are perfect, and come at the perfect time. 

What awe-filled moments has God tossed your way?

Hannah Conway is a military wife, mother of two, middle school teacher, and speaker. Her novels are a deployment experience of their own, threaded with faith, and filled with twists and turns sure to thrill, and encourage. Hannah is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and My book Therapy. She and her family live in Tennessee

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Tips for Returning to Work After Staying at Home: The Juggle is Real!

My youngest child started first grade this year, and after eight years of staying at home to raise my kiddos, I decided to return to teaching full-time…while still writing…Did I mention I’m crazy?

By the grace of God, I successfully survived my first 9 weeks back to teaching. No students were lost or injured…SCORE! However, my beautiful meal planning and preparation skills took a fatal blow, and we’ve gone into survival meal mode/ aka anything I can stuff in a crockpot. Writing has been a struggle as I no longer have 3-4 hrs of uninterrupted writing time 3 or 4 days a week…sad sigh…sniffle, sniffle. The house is messier than usual, and I’ve had to say no to volunteer opportunities I’d normally take. It’s been a change…A BIG CHANGE. But not bad. Difficult, but not bad.

This new stage of my life is just that…a new stage, and it requires getting used to, and a whole lot of other tools & tips. These tools and tips are a work in progress for me as I weave my way through this part of life, and I hope and pray you find them useful.

PLEASE feel free to let me know any other tools and tips you have for transitioning back to public work, and or balancing mom-life, with work-life, and home-life.   

1: Jesus Time

WE MUST make time to read the Word. I struggled to find that time after returning to work. My Bible time was at 6:30am before my kiddos woke up, but now I’m up at 5:00am and get to school by 6:15. Getting ready, and sitting down to read? How would that work? The best solution right now is to listen to the audio option on my Bible app while getting ready. So far, it’s been a good fit for me, and maybe you as well.

2: Crockpot Recipes & lots of them:

I could hug my crockpot. The thing cooked a whole chicken for me—enough for chicken & dumplins, chicken tacos, and chicken noodle soup! 3 meals, bam! JWorking moms should invest in a crockpot for sure!

3: To-Do Lists:

If you’re anything like me, our brain can be a little…well…full. So many things to think about with so little time! J Therefore, a To-Do List for each category of my life is a must: School/Work, Writing & Marketing, Kid’s List, Home/Cleaning etc. Some of the lists, like those pertaining to home & the kiddos go on my kitchen cabinet door. School & writing to-do lists will stay in a spiral binder I carry with me.

4:  An Agenda:

An agenda, or calendar, is a MUST. When are Fall Festivals? When is football practice, church meetings, parent/teacher conferences, the next writing deadline? When am I going to go to the grocery store? Bills due? All these things need to be listed out and placed on the calendar in plain view…on the fridge…cabinet door…some place where it will be seen frequently.

3: A Reusable Meal Schedule:

For now, my love for from-scratch meals, and new dinner creations, has to be pushed to the side…it is what it is. Sigh.

It took a while, but sticking to a simpler, consistent dinner plan has helped lighten my load. Feel free to copy what we do:

M: Crockpot meal Monday, with salad/veggies & fruit
T: Taco Tuesday, or Mexican Themed
W: Soup/Chili & Sandwich
Th: Leftovers w/ side of veggies or salad
F: Pizza
Sa: Noodles (Asian, Italian etc) Salad
Su: Out to Eat or a kid friendly (Chicken Nuggets, Mac & Cheese)
4: A Cleaning Schedule:

The house just isn’t going to be perfection…big sad sigh. So, in 15 minutes each night, what area of the house are we going to work on? Is it dishes, taking out the trash & tidying the living room? Wiping down bathroom sinks?  Allow Saturday morning, evening, or afternoon to be for the heavier cleaning. Throw in a load of clothes on Mon, Wed, & Friday.  We’re not the best at keeping up with a cleaning schedule, but we’re getting there.
Recently a sweet friend introduced me to FlyLady, an organizational/cleaning whiz who sends daily tasks via email that can be done in 15 minutes each day. I’m excited to give this a whirl! Check her out here: FlyLady.net
5: Exercise:

Exercise? Because we have so much free time, right?! Ha, I know!  Exercise releases the happy chemicals in our brain, and Lord knows that’s a good thing. J I have missed going to the gym! MISS IT LIKE A LONG LOST FRIEND! And now that I’ve finally stopped complaining about not having time for the gym, and an extra ten pounds later, it’s time to make time to work out.

Can we make 20-30 minutes 3 times a week to exercise? YES! It may not be the gym, but what about a walk around the neighborhood, or squats in the living room? Get creative! Where can the time be carved out?

I’ve decided to stay after school for 20-30 minutes 3 times a week to work out with some teachers in the school’s auxiliary gym. Wish me luck!

6: Friendship & Accountability:

If it weren’t for my friends holding me accountable to my writing goals, praying for me as I struggle to juggle it all…I’d fall apart. God knows we need friends. We were made to care for each other. It’s good to share goals with someone trustworthy, and let them hold us accountable.

7: Delegate:

HELP! The housework is overtaking me, the clutter piles about to spill over…and my to-do list is growing fangs.

Glance over that list and check off the items that can be delegated. Are the kids old enough to mop the floor, wipe the counters, do dishes? Can someone do a guest post for your blog?

We may be able to juggle a lot, but we can’t juggle it all (CLICK TO TWEET), and we need help…we need to delegate.

8: Let Go:

This could mean a lot of things, but for our current season of life it means letting go of the need to be in control of all aspects of life, and having things done exactly the way I would want them done. For a planner, who enjoys planning and carrying out those plans, this is hard, so letting go is a work in progress for me.

9: Shut it down & Cuddle:

There’s nothing on our to-do list, or any writing goal, that’s worth missing out on a cuddle from our family. They too feel the strain of this busy life, and if we can put aside our important stuff for them, then it’s a win for all.

I’ll admit…this can be a struggle when I really have to get grades put in, or I really need to get 500 more words in on a scene, but in the end, our families come first. They are our first priority. 

10: An ample amount of Grace:

BUCKET loads of grace.

We will fail, and fail again, and forget to send a signed form back to our child’s teacher …or mix up dates on the calendar…or subject our children to chicken nuggets twice in one week! Listen, the world is full of negativity without beating ourselves up. God says we are more than conquerors, we are loved, and He delights in us. We need to remember that and give ourselves grace, just like He gave us.
I wish I could say I’ve mastered these 10 tips, but the truth is…I haven’t. They are all a work in progress, something to apply to my life on a daily basis. And that’s okay. 🙂 

Any tips and tricks, or crockpot recipes you’d like to share? Be my guest! Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you!


Hannah Conway is a military wife, mother of two, middle school teacher, and speaker. Her novels are a deployment experience of their own, threaded with faith, and filled with twists and turns sure to thrill, and encourage. Hannah is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and My book Therapy. She and her family live in Tennessee

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CLICK the Links Below The Image to Download Your eCopy of WEDDING A WARRIOR