Friday, March 24, 2017

my pen puts my tongue in print

The psalmist likened his tongue to the pen of a ready writer, and interesting comparison. I would like to take the liberty of rearranging that thought. For, when I write, and maybe you think this also, my pen become the tongue of a focused writer.

Now that can be dangerous or it can be exciting. Depending upon what is motivating the tongue the words and story written will resemble a fire. It could be words that warm and melt a frozen heart or wild, uncontrolled expressions which leaves the mind in ashes. In comparing the pen and the tongue and the results which can be produced I turn to the Biblical book of James. In chapter three he takes us through many aspects of the tongue which are negative and nasty. I wonder what roused him to write in such a manner as a warning to us all. I do wish he had also said some nice and noble things the tongue can utter.  As writers our words are coloured by what has invaded our hearts, stirred our emotions, affected our relationships or impacted our belief system. Whatever our genre and however we tell our story our pen becomes the tongue which reveals the passions and the purposes driving us to write.

James’ description of the tongue can be applied to some unpleasant and unfortunate things I’ve read. This can apply from graffiti to gory and ghastly volumes. But for us as Christian writers our tongue has been given the ‘soap and water’ treatment. Actually, that was applied to our heart and mind (1 Corinthians 6:11) and our tongue as a pen reveals the transformation. Moses had some strong words to say and record. We can read what his tongue said because his pen expressed it. However in Deuteronomy32:1-3 is an eloquent use of the pen. “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; And hear, O earth the words of my mouth. Let my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distil as the dew, as raindrops on the tender herb, and as showers on the grass. For I proclaim the name of the Lord:”

There are times when the tongue of the pen has to say strong words, harsh and confronting words. However, there is no poison being injected. Paul challenges us with ‘let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one’ (Colossians 4:6). Proverbs has a lot to say about the tongue in a favourable way. When our readers put down our writing or story through all its twists and turns, struggles and sorrows surely they will long to feel something similar to what Proverbs mentions. ‘It has been choice silver’ (10:20) It reveals the tongue of the wise promoting health (12:18) and it produces a ‘tree of life’ (15:4). Truly, death and life are present in the tongue of the pen (18:21) and as writers we are charged with revealing the One who is ‘The Life!’

May the pen speak to the reader that which our heart would long to share with their ears from our tongue. The psalmist put it very well for us writers in psalm 19:14:’Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart [which I’ve put to paper] be acceptable in your sight.’

©Ray Hawkins March 2017.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Put On Your Listening Ears and Use Your Five Senses

by Ruth Ann Dell

Cosmos in my garden

Want a surefire way to pull your readers into your story world? Want to make your book pop? Sizzle with life? Then appeal to your readers' senses by including telling details of sound, taste, smell, and touch, as well as the obvious ones of sight. So say the many articles, writing craft books and blogs that I've read. They're right.

But what about God's world? Do we use all our senses to appreciate and immerse ourselves in His creation? It's easy to be captivated by spectacular scenery such as awesome sunsets over the mountains, but what about going to our ordinary outside on an ordinary day, and really experiencing the wonder of our Father's handiwork?

I pondered on this after discovering a beautiful old hymn, This is My Father's World, by Maltbie D. Babcock. Here is the first verse:

"This is my Father's world, and to my listening ears,
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought."

I am very aware of God in His creation. This weekend we drove through roads edged with cosmos in full bloom against the background of grasslands. Who can see such beauty and doubt that God exists?

Earlier today I put on my "listening ears" and went outside to experience the world intentionally instead to taking it for granted. I stood barefoot on the grass, shut my eyes and concentrated on listening. I heard doves cooing nearby and the sound of a crested barbet trilling—remember the dialing tone of an old-fashioned telephone? That's this spectacular garden bird's call. A rustle of leaves indicated a lizard scurrying by as pigeon wings clapped overhead. Bees buzzed and a soft padding in the sandy soil told of Boris, my son's dog, a handsome Rhodesian Ridgeback, following me. Our pets are a treasured part of our Father's creation.

My other senses soon jostled for my attention. I felt the touch of a breeze cool on my arms and the sun warm on my face. My bare feet felt the roughness of the grass. Soft fur brushed against my ankles accompanied by a light purring—my velvet cat, Misty.

I opened my eyes and after watching a bee collecting nectar, I discovered a little bug, the like of which I had never seen before, clambering through pollen grains on a cosmos petal. Whitish dots and dashes in perfect symmetry on his wings fascinated me, and then he moved so that the sun caught them, and in that instant they flashed with iridescent greens.

The little bug with a pattern of dots and dashes

A bumble bee with wide white bands  on his abdomen landed nearby and I spotted a
fly—not just any old housefly, but one that looked as though it was a gleaming bronze sculpture.

Lastly I took the time to smell flowers and enjoy fragrances so light and delicate that normally they would pass unnoticed. I ruffled the grass with my hand and delighted in the newly cut lawn scent.

Truly our Father's world is one of beauty and delight, but we need to put on our "listening ears" and engage all our senses to appreciate it, else we will miss so many wonders. 

To use a cliche, let's take the time to stop and smell the roses every day, and then thank and praise God our Father for His wonderful creation.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


One of the unexpected side-effects or benefits or consequences (depending on your point of view) of living closer to my grandkids is the opportunity it gives me to relive my own kid’s exploits.

When my grandkids balk at going to bed, I remember my own under-age night-owls and the strategies I used to get them to sleep. The few tricks that worked and the many that didn’t.

When the puppy hoovers around under the baby’s highchair, I think of our youngest son. We were sharing dinner with pet-less friends and I’d been recounting (okay, bragging) about what an amazing eater our youngest was. After the meal, however, I discovered a pile of peas and mountain of corn under his booster seat. How could that be? Humiliatingly, I realized my son’s stellar eating habits were actually our dog’s atrocious table habits.

I can’t help smile when the three-year-old stands defiantly with hands on hips and shouts ‘No!’ How often her dad’s independence drove me to distraction. I marvel how he handles her.

Recently our grandson accidentally broke a window. That reminded me of the time I let our son play golf in the back yard. Did I mention we lived beside that church?  Yep. Golf ball through a window. Thankfully, not a stained glass one.

What is interesting to me now, is how his dad remembers that event.

At the time, I’d wondered: were we too lenient? Were we too tough? But as I hear our son recount the incident to his trembling son, what he remembers is grace.

                                            Grace in a broken window.

For the first time I thank God for the opportunity he gave us, all those years ago, to share His grace with our own trembling little boy.

The window has long been replaced. The incident forgotten—mostly. But the impact it had on our son has not faded.

Neither has God’s gift of grace. It’s as potent today as it was when we first believed.

No matter where we go in life, or what we do, God’s grace is there for us.

What could be more wonderful than that?

Do you have your own stories of grace? Do you share them with others?

Jayne E. Self lives in Canada, just a few blocks from her grandkids.
Visit her at or Facebook.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Best of the ICFW Archives ~ Hope for the Heart

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/

Hi! Lucy Morgan-Jones here. I am an author in progress. Or should that be an author with a book in progress?

For those who don't know me, I am a follower of Christ, passionate reader, and mum to four precocious children. I make my home in north central Victoria, Australia. I am a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Christian Writers Downunder, and Romance Writers of America, and am represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary Agency.

You can typically find me enjoying a cuppa while I teach my children school, reading or critiquing, and lurking on facebook. I'd love to get to know you, either on my blog, or on facebook. So pull up a stump or feel free to drop me a line. There I hope to share what I've learned in my own journey to self worth, interesting research tidbits, or writing tips I find.

Today, I'd like to strike a more serious note and talk about a subject close to my heart: Self Worth, freedom from abuse, and God's word. Before you hit delete or move on-Wait! This could save someone's life, could bring clarity to a helpless situation, and is also helpful for characters that have a darker side to their backstory.

Read more at the following link:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Lessons Learned in Fiction Writing

Guest Post by Alexis A. Goring

Hi everyone! My friend and fellow journalist, Alexis A. Goring, is visiting our blog today as my guest and sharing some really great lessons she’s learned in writing fiction. Thanks for joining us, Alexis! – Morgan Tarpley Smith

I’m a new author whose first book was self-published by Crossbooks in September 2013. Four years later, my second book was traditionally published by Forget Me Not Romances and in that four-year gap, I learned a lot of lessons in fiction writing. As a result, I’ve grown as a writer.

This guest post is for aspiring authors who would like to take a page from my lessons learned so that they too can grow as a writer.

So here are a few of the main points from my lessons learned after working with my God-sent editor Liz Tolsma:

#1: When writing romance for the CBA market, your hero and heroine should meet in the first chapter. It took me a few times to get this one right because I struggled with what I thought was ruining the flow of my story because with the original draft of my most recent story, the hero and heroine did not meet until Chapter 3. I held fast to the thought that everything that happened before Chapter 3 was important and needed to be there. But I was wrong and after I followed this rule, my story (to my surprise) flowed better.

#2: Before you start writing a story, take time to determine the emotional/physical/spiritual GMC (Goal/Motivation/Conflict) of your main characters. I used to simply create a few “character sketches” for each my story’s main characters and then dive into writing the story. The character sketches included a brief overview of details like my characters’ age, role in the story, background, strengths, weaknesses and ethnicity. Each sketch only spanned one page. But my editor sent a GMC chart to me and informed me that after I filled out the chart for each character, I would have a better handle on who they are and how to use them in my story. She also told me that their goal cannot “only be to fall in love.” She challenged me to delve deeper into their psyche and discover their innermost motivations and desires. She said that my story would be more solid as a result of this. She was right!

#3: Don’t make your characters too perfect. They need to have at least one character flaw. This is actually the challenge I faced after filling out the GMC chart and character profiles for my third book that I’m working on now. My editor reminded me that imperfect people make a more interesting story. You’ll have to wait until my next book is published to see the result of that advice!

#4: Know what makes your character tick and use it. Conflict makes the story. Don’t allow your characters to have smooth sailing in every scene. I applied this concept in A Second Chance in the scene where the hero gets mad at the heroine because she broke his trust by keeping a secret that affected him, from him. He had issues with honesty in his relationships so this discovery of her secret really threw him for a loop and created a rift in their romance.

#5: Every scene should build the tension. I had to learn how to “write tight” in a whole new way. As a trained print journalist, I already knew how to write news and feature stories that were “precise and concise.” But I learned that when writing fiction, I needed to really tap into the emotions of my characters and draw out their desires in a way that makes the plot thicken.

#6: Always end every scene in a way that makes the reader want to know what happens next. Use “cliffhangers.” My editor told me that I don’t want my readers to stop reading halfway through the story because the way that I ended the previous chapter led the reader to infer that everything would work out perfectly and have a happy ending. So she taught me how to write in a way that left the reader at the edge of metaphorical cliff when they reached the end of each chapter, leaving them with no choice but to continue to the next chapter to satisfy their curiosity.

#7: Invest in an emotional thesaurus. So I bought this book, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression, and it was worth my investment! This book provided in-depth guides covering how to write deep emotions in a creative way. So instead of just saying, “She was astonished”, I can say “her eyes widened” (physical expression), “her heart seemed to freeze, then pound” (internal sensation), “Her mind momentarily forgot everything else” (mental response). After reading that, your mind can paint a picture of her being astonished, right?

I could go on for a while, but those seven points were some of my most important lessons to learn that once applied, helped me to grow as a fiction writer. So my closing message to aspiring authors is this: Be encouraged in your writing journey! Never give up. Keep learning, growing, and writing books. God bless your dear hearts!

Alexis A. Goring is a passionate writer with a degree in Print Journalism and an MFA in Creative Writing. She loves the art of storytelling and hopes that her stories will connect readers with the enduring, forever love of Jesus Christ. For more information, visit her website at and her “God is Love” blog, or through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Goodreads. Her novella, A Second Chance, can be found here.

Newly single food critic and newspaper reporter Traci Hightower is done with dating. After the man of her dreams left her at the altar on their wedding day and ran off with the woman she thought was her best friend, Traci resolves to focus on work and resigns herself to being a bachelorette for life.

Marc Roberts is a political reporter who is known as Mr. Nice Guy, the one who always finishes last. However, Marc’s compassion and kindness are of invaluable help to his newly widowed sister Gina Braxton who is trying to raise her two kids in the wake of her firefighter husband’s death.

Traci and Marc may be the perfect match, but they don’t know it yet. With God’s guidance and the help of Gina’s matchmaking skills honed by her career as a bestselling romance novelist, there is hope for a happily ever after for these two broken hearts.

Sunday, March 19, 2017


Coming Up This Week 


Morgan Tarpley Smith: Lessons Learned in Fiction Writing


Best of the ICFW Archives ~ Hope for the Heart


Jayne E. Self


Ruth Ann Dell

Friday Devotion 

Ray Hawkins


New Release

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Promise of Peppermint, prequel to her Urban Farm Fresh Romance series, releases independently in March 2017.


Upcoming Releases

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense, Pursued, will be an April 2017 release from Revell.

Patricia Beal's debut contemporary women’s fiction set in Germany and in the United States, A Season to Dance, will be a May 2017 release from Bling! Romance / Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Sprouts of Love, Book 1 in her new Garden Grown Romance series (part of Arcadia Valley Romance multi-author series), releases independently in May 2017.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Memories of Mist, Book 3 in her Urban Farm Fresh Romance series, releases independently in July 2017.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Better Than a Crown, Book 3 in her Christmas in Montana Romance series, releases independently in October 2017.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Rooted in Love, Book 2 in her new Garden Grown Romance series (part of Arcadia Valley Romance multi-author series) releases independently in November 2017.

To find more International Christian Fiction books, please visit our 2013 - 2016 Book Releases page and Backlist Titles.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Humility vs Perfection and the sweet space in between

Humble is a good place to live, right?

I've had an interesting week. Shackles, the first novel that I wrote (over a decade over *cough*) never found an official publishing home. It did get my foot in the door with my current publishing house though, so I'm grateful for that.

A few years back, I read Shackles again and I still loved the characters and the plot. At that point I decided to put it out as a 'warts-and-all' freebie to give readers the opportunity of checking out my writing. Bait, if you will. I even wrote a 'warts-and-all' disclaimer in the preface because I just wasn't going to re-edit the whole thing again. (Besides, I'd checked it twenty-trillion-times and had some others look over it for errors too and we were all happy that it was fine.) I knew I'd have to re-edit at some point, but with new books to be written, that never really loomed large on my horizon.

Fast forward a few years to this week.

Out of the blue, four new reviews arrived. Check them out here. All of them positive - some so lovely that I wanted to cry and hug my dog. Considering my allergies, that is quite something. 


A significant number of these reviews commented on a few grammar and typo issues.

*DIES* but (even bigger BUT...)

Here's the weird thing, they loved the book anyway.

My immediate reaction was to start re-editing. Sorry kids, make your own supper. But I'm also currently writing to deadline. So what is a girl to do? I feel like I'm parading Amazon in my ancient bikini, the one with the elastic that has given up on life. 

It is humbling.

But it's also beautiful because I know that what they are falling in love with is not my broken ability but they are seeing Jesus through the cracks of what I can produce and are loving Him in the midst of typos and dodgy grammar. 

It just doesn't get better than that.

So I do have a chapter-a-day-only-after-I've-met-my-word-count editing plan. But it will take time and in the meantime, I'll be out there warts and all for the world to read. And strangely, I'm okay with that.

I'd love to hear from you. Perfectionist? Any humbling happening in your life right now? Please tell me I'm not alone in my ancient bikini.

Dianne J. Wilson writes novels from her hometown in East London, South Africa, where she lives with her husband and three daughters. She is neck-deep in a three book contract for a YA series, Spirit Walker, with Pelican / Watershed.

Finding Mia is available from AmazonPelican / Harbourlight, Barnes & Noble and other bookstores.

Shackles is available as a free ebook from Amazon & Smashwords.

Find her on FacebookTwitter and her sporadic blog Doodles.