Posts in The Art of Writing
Meet Finn & Gabby

Hi friends,

So happy to be back with you today! I’ve got something really fun to share. Actually not ‘thing’ but characters to share with you. As you may know, my tenth full-length novel—The Killing Tide—is releasing August 6th. I’m so excited to share this new set of characters, a new setting, and a whole heap of mystery and adventure with you.

Today, I’m going to give you a sneak peek by introducing Finn and Gabby! I hope you’ll come to love them. Gabby Rowley is feisty and pursues truth for a living. Finn Walker is low-key until it comes time for adventure and pursues justice for a living. Put these two together and things are about to get very complicated.



If you pre-order The Killing Tide you can get collector cards of Finn and Gabby, along with more fun perks. A percentage of your pre-order will also be donated to the Coast Guard Foundation. You can find out more here.


What’s one of your favorite character traits or qualities?

For me, I love a fighting spirit. Can’t wait to hear your answers! I always look forward to reading them.

Have a blessed day!


3 Tips for Writing During the Summer

When I think of summer, I think of sunshine, flip-flops, long days, ice cream cones and relaxing. Summer is the best! Unfortunately, it’s also full of temptations to keep us from meeting our writing goals.

I used to look forward to summer with a mixture of excitement and dread. On the one hand, no more getting up at the crack of dawn to get the kids off to school. On the other hand, kids at home for three months did not equal writing bliss!

Now that my kids are older, I still wrestle with excitement and dread—but for a different reason. It’s way too easy to let my writing slide because the delights of the season are calling to me. Thankfully, I have tricks that have kept me on track for the past several years. They allow me to enjoy summer and meet my writing goals.

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Here are my top 3 tips for writing during the summer.

1. Every week decide when you’ll write, and create a contingency plan.

June, July and August practically beg us to make spur-of-the-moment plans. That’s why my summer schedule is less rigid than the rest of the year’s. To avoid letting the fun stuff crowd out my writing, every Sunday night I find a comfy spot, grab my day planner and my phone (I keep track of appointments using my phone’s calendar), and I plan my week.

First, I look at all of my commitments. I analyze the best times for me to write. Then I determine alternative times to write if something comes up. This allows me to keep my schedule flexible and still get my writing in.

For example, maybe Monday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings from 7am to 9am are generally a good time for you to write. A less ideal time would be from 4pm to 6pm on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. If a friend invites you to coffee Wednesday morning or one of your kids needs to get dropped off to tennis on Thursday morning, you can shift your writing to the alternate times.

2. Define what you absolutely need to get done and how you’ll achieve it.

If you have a book due in August, you absolutely need to get it done. Other than contracted books, only you can decide if something is an absolute need-to-get-it-done project for the summer.

It’s easy to overestimate how much we can accomplish during the summer, but most people plan vacations, spend more time outside, and have fun activities they can only do during the warm months. Be realistic. Don’t tell yourself you’re going to write two books and a novella in three months.

Once you’ve decided what you need to get done, be proactive and specific to stay on track.

This might look like the following:

I have to write 45,000 more words to finish this draft, and it needs to be finished by July 14. This means I need to write 7500 words per week for the next six weeks.

My work-in-progress is drafted but needs a lot of work. It has 24 chapters. If I revise two chapters per week, I can have it in good shape by the end of August.

At the end of each week, review what you accomplished and adjust your goals accordingly.

3. If you have children at home, be realistic about your writing schedule.

I was a stay-at-home mom for years, and summer was tough. I struggled to fit any writing in. One summer I’d had enough and told myself I either had to take summers off or get serious about working year-round. So I got up early and wrote until the kids woke up. After a short break to make sure they were fed and occupied, I continued to work until lunchtime. The rest of the day I spent with them. This allowed me to make progress on my book and still have plenty of time to go on adventures or hang out together at home.

If your kids are younger, you might have to write when another adult is home or hire a babysitter. If you’re not on deadline, you can always take the summer off. It’s okay. Writing will be there in the fall. If you are on deadline and worried about kids interrupting you every ten minutes, have someone else watch them. Go to a coffee shop or the library—anywhere out of the house—to write.

If you follow the above tips, you’ll find it helps shift your attitude. Writing while your friends are living it up can feel like a sacrifice. On the other hand, all fun and no writing can make you feel guilty.

At the end of the day, we’re writing because we love it. We have stories that need to be told. So set clear parameters around your writing and get more fun into your days. Make ooey-gooey sundaes, lay outside, read a good book, take a long walk. Summer doesn’t last long—make the most of it!

About Jill Kemerer

Jill Kemerer Color.jpg

Jill Kemerer is a Publishers Weekly bestselling author of inspirational romance novels for Harlequin Love Inspired. She loves coffee, M&Ms, a stack of books, and long walks outdoors. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two almost-grown children. Please visit her website,, and sign up for her newsletter.


Enter to win

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US residents will receive 4 signed paperbacks. International residents will receive 4 ebooks.

When his childhood friend Kit McAllistor shows up, widowed and pregnant, rancher Wade Croft offers her a place to stay…but he can’t offer her his heart. As old feelings begin to surface, past tragedies force Wade to ignore them. But on the brink of losing his ranch, will he also risk losing the woman he’s beginning to love…or can he cowboy up in time?

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Friends Who Fall in Love

Hi friends,

Happy Wednesday. I’m super excited to have as my guest, my dear writing friend and prayer partner, Becky Wade. We met on a trip to Bethany House Publishers shortly after we both signed with them, and our debut novels released with them on the same day in May 2012. We’ve been encouraging and supportive friends since. Writers definitely need friends like that. People who get our crazy brains and creative spirit.

Today, Becky is sharing about her latest release, Sweet on You. If you haven’t grabbed a copy, we’ve got a fun giveaway for you! Enjoy Becky’s guest post and be sure to enter to win our Book-end Your Summer Giveaway. Becky’s novel kicks summer off and my upcoming novel, The Killing Tide, releases in August when Becky will be giving away a great set of book ends (see below) and copies of my books. Hope you enjoy her fabulous post and hope you all have a wonderful week!

The Book-end Your Summer Giveaway is now closed. The winner is Emilee Douglas. Congratulations, Emilee.


Friends Who Fall in Love

By Becky Wade

I've now published eight full-length Christian fiction romances.  But my new release, Sweet on You, is my first attempt at a story about two adult friends who fall in love.

My husband and I were friends for a year before we started dating!  I've known other women who ended up marrying men who were first their friends.  I've read a few books with this premise and thoroughly enjoyed them. Thus, when I sat down to write Britt and Zander's story, I imagined I had a good handle on my task.

However, as I started writing, I began to flail.

Those of you who read romantic books and watch romantic movies know that conflict is the lynchpin of every gripping love story. My two characters knew each other tremendously well.  Britt had liked Zander enormously for more than a decade. Zander had loved Britt secretly for more than a decade. After I put them on the page together, I thought Where do I go from here? and What's the conflict?

I figured out the answers to both of those questions gradually as I wrote and rewrote Sweet on You. In the end, the challenge inherent in the set-up only made the writing process that much richer and more satisfying.

Penning Sweet on You reminded me why it's wonderful to fall in love with your friend. Namely:

1. You can dispense with the get-to-know you chit chat.  Your guy friend already realizes that your favorite color is blue, that you get cranky when tired, that you love watching BBC.

2. You don't have to worry that he'll break up with you and run screaming when he meets your eccentric aunt Lucille.  He's met your people.

3. You can count on his acceptance of you.  He's not going to be surprised by your knack for math or by your fear of roller coasters. The two of you are friends because he appreciates and accepts you.

4.  You can trust that the bedrock of your friendship will remain intact over the course of your romance.  Years after you start dating or marry, the things that motivated your friendship -- your shared sense of humor, his kindness, your loyalty -- will still bond the two of you together.

In your opinion, what's the best part of falling in love with a friend?  Has anyone here dated or married their friend?

Book Overview:


Britt Bradford and Zander Ford have been the best of friends since they met thirteen years ago. Unbeknown to Britt, Zander has been in love with her for just as long.

Independent and adventurous Britt channels her talent into creating chocolates at her hometown shop. Zander is a bestselling author who’s spent the past eighteen months traveling the world. He’s achieved a great deal but still lacks the only thing that ever truly mattered to him–Britt’s heart.

When Zander’s uncle dies of mysterious causes, he returns to Merryweather, Washington, to investigate, and Britt is immediately there to help. Although this throws them into close proximity, both understand that an attempt at romance could jeopardize their once-in-a-lifetime friendship. But while Britt is determined to resist any change in their relationship, Zander finds it increasingly difficult to keep his feelings hidden.

As they work together to uncover his uncle’s tangled past, will the truth of what lies between them also, finally, come to light?


About Becky:


Becky’s a California native who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and settled in Dallas. She published historical romances for the general market before putting her career on hold for several years to care for her three children. When God called her back to writing, Becky knew He meant for her to turn her attention to Christian fiction. She loves writing funny, modern, and inspirational contemporary romance! She’s the Christy and Carol award winning author of My Stubborn Heart, the Porter Family series, and the Bradford Sisters Romance series.


Enter the Book-end your Summer Giveaway

Scenic Settings

Scenic Settings

Hi friends,

So happy to be back with you this week. Today, I’m going to be sharing about my favorite settings to write about. I adore Costal areas. The beach is my absolute happy place. I grew up a few hours away from Ocean City, Maryland and my family spent our summer vacations split between there and Hilton Head, SC.

As a kid through my teenage years, my family sailed often, and I spent lots of time in and on the water—wind surfing, white-water rafting, swimming, snorkeling, taking Scuba diving lessons, and the list goes on. If there’s water nearby, I’m in it.  We have our annual Fourth of July trip to the beach every year.

There’s something energizing yet soothing about being near the ocean, in particular, for me. I have a friend who is kind enough to let us use her ocean-front beach condo. Whenever I need some writing time away (a.k.a writing deadline) I head to the condo and love curling up on the sofa, no matter the weather, and writing away with the ocean in view.

Spending so much of my time in coastal areas is probably why they are my favorite setting to write about.


Yancy, Alaska

My debut series, The Alaskan Courage series, is set on the fictional island of Yancey, Alaska, which sits next to Kodiak Island.


Chesapeake Bay

My Chesapeake Valor series is set by the Chesapeake Bay where I grew up in Northern Virginia and where my family and I live in Maryland. It was so much fun writing about places I visit regularly.


Coastal North Carolina

My upcoming Coastal Guardian series is set along coastal North Carolina where we spend a good portion of our summer and fall vacations. It’s gorgeous down there and I’m having the best time describing all the beauty the area encompasses.

You can learn more about The Killing Tide by clicking the button below:

Question for you:

Do you have a favorite setting you like to read about? Coastal or mountain? Small town verses city? International or domestic?

I look forward to hearing your answers!

Have a blessed day!  


Writerly Wednesday--Interview with the Awesome Susie Larson!


Hi friends,

Welcome to Writerly Wednesday. Today I have a very special guest--Susie Larson is joining us from Minnesota. If you aren't familiar with Susie, boy are you missing out. Susie is a radio host, writer, encourager and she runs a fabulous conference for Christian Writers.

The amazing thing about Susie is how you open one of her books and you feel like you've stepped in the room with her and are chatting over a cup of coffee. Her words speak deep to the soul and I'm honored to have her sharing with us today.

1) What Bible story are you most thankful was included in Scripture and why?

What a great question! Can I give you three answers?

Yes ma'am! 

My first choice would be the story of Joseph of the OT. His story of vision, hardship, training, trust, and breakthrough speak volumes to me. I’ve returned to this story time and time again as I’ve walked out my own faith journey. Second choice would be the story of Ruth. Her grit and courage and conviction to face the unknown and to follow a God she trusted but could not see…well, it inspires me to no end. And finally, the woman at the well constantly reminds me that Jesus changes us when we’re willing to be honest with Him. I love how most of the town was transformed because she was willing to be known as someone who needed to be saved. When saving grace upstages saving face, everything changes.


Amen to that! 

2) Who do you most want to reach through your writing?

I want to encourage and strengthen the Christ follower who is weary in battle and who wonders if God sees her. I have such a passion to see women healed, restored, and mobilized to live out their call in Christ Jesus.

Your heart for women definitely comes shining through in all your writing and in your awesome radio show! You are definitely an encourager. I've been so blessed by you! 

3) Is there a theme that carries through most of your books even though they are on different topics?

Wow, another great question! For me, yes! I didn’t set out to carry this theme throughout my books but it’s appeared enough for me to realize that it’s a part of who I am. If you read enough of my stuff, you’ll start to notice that I write a lot about how to stand in battle, how to contend for the promises of God, how to persevere when you feel like quitting, and the importance of physical disciplines to protect your health. I worked in the fitness industry for about 15 years and I’ve struggled with a chronic health issue. Though I’m a ‘doer’ and a get-er-done girl, I’ve had to come to grips with my limits. And in that place, I’ve learned afresh that I serve a God who has no limits. So I respect my limits and then I pray to the God of the impossible. I suppose that’s more than one theme. Is that okay? :)

Lol! Absolutely okay :) I also suffer from a chronic health condition and am very much like you--a 'doer' so it's been quite a challenge learning to accept my limits, but you are so right--God IS the God of the impossible.

4) What would you say helps you stay focused on what matters most in a world that’s so distracting?

I spend a significant time with the Lord every morning because He’s my safest place, He knows me best, and He’s the Source of everything I do. And as silly as it sounds, I get to bed on time every night. We lose perspective quickly when we’re under-rested and overworked.

That is so true. Rest is so important as is that start-of-the-day time with our Lord. 

5) What do you do to prepare your heart or still your soul for celebrating Jesus’ birth at Christmas?

I do what I do all year long (guard that morning time with God), and I block off nights on my schedule to just sit by the tree with music on. I recall the ways God has been faithful. This reminds me that I have a history with God. And I thank Him ahead of time for the ways He will continue to be faithful. I know I have a future with Him. And I remember that Jesus was born during a time of great injustice. It may have been a silent night but it was a turbulent time. It helps me remember that though we will have trouble in this world, we can be of good cheer because He has overcome the world.

Amen! How about you all--how do you prepare your heart or still your soul for celebrating Jesus' birth at Christmas?

Everyone who answers or leaves a question or comment for Susie will automatically be entered to when a copy of Your Sacred Yes! Trust me, you want to win this fabulous book. 


Thank you so much for joining us today, Susie. It was an honor and a pleasure.


Susie and I would love if you'd join us THIS Thursday at 8pm EST for a Christmas Celebration. There will be caroling, Christmas memories, FB LIVE videos from us both, not to mention fabulous Christmas giveaway bundles. Hope to see you there! Be sure to RSVP today.


Susie Larson is a talk radio host, national speaker, and bestselling author of fifteen books and many articles. In both 2016 and 2017 Susie was nominated and voted into the top ten group for the John Maxwell Leadership Award. Susie has been married to her dear husband Kevin since 1985 and together they have three wonderful sons, three beautiful daughters-in-law, and one adorable pit bull named Memphis. Susie’s passion is to see women everywhere awakened to the value of their soul, the depth of God’s love, and the height of their calling in Christ Jesus.

To learn more about Susie visit her at


Writerly Wednesday with Zachary Bartels

I was on an author panel a few years—the kind where I don’t remember much of what we discussed, but I do remember that someone asked us, “What kind of books do you read to prepare yourself for writing?” My friend Tracy Groot said Steinbeck, I think. Someone else said they read John Ashbery.

I said I don’t read anybody. I watch an episode of Breaking Bad. And I have a cigar and a cup of coffee. Then I’m ready to write.

I should have felt silly about that, but I didn’t. I know what triggers get my mind in the right head-space to write what I need to write and I’m very intentional about using them. I know that I do my best writing on a particular bench overlooking the Capitol building and the Lansing skyline (you may never have heard of Lansing, which is weird because it’s the capital city of Michigan) while writing on this decade-old word processor I bought on eBay. It’s called a “Dana” and it has no internet, e-mail, twitter, or anything like that to distract me. I know that music and surroundings tend to affect how I write.

I like to have a playlist for each novel I’m writing, that evokes the mood I want to tap into, but also one particular song for each book that I can play to sort of Pavlov’s Dog myself into the right head-space in under a minute. For my book The Last Con, the song was “Crystalize” by Lindsey Stirling. I heard that song in a bookstore a couple weeks ago and immediately (involuntarily) started concocting new scenes. The problem is, that book came out in 2015. For42 Months Dry, it was all about Matisyahu—frantic, urban, and Hebraic.

For Playing Saint and the sequel that just came out, Playing Saint: All Souls’ Day, watching a little Breaking Bad was the thing that chambers a round for me, creatively speaking. Not that I wanted to copy Vince Gilligan’s style; just that I found myself wanting—needing—to be creative in a sort of uncharted way after forty minutes of consuming that brand of narrative. The writing flowed better when I crank-started the process that way (there’s a pun in there somewhere).

I think this is a fairly pervasive phenomenon. When I read 17th Century Puritans for half an hour (which I do frequently; see also, pastor), I find myself speaking and even thinking in more archaic language and with way more complex sentence structure than normal. Seriously.

Or I remember one week in college, I went with some friends to see Good Will Hunting (saw it again a few months ago—it still holds up, by the way). When we got back to our suite in the dormitory, I realized that my roommates and I were talking to each other in the same sort of quick, sarcastic, reference-heavy cadence of that film. The next night, we rented Bad Boys, and I noticed that we were all kind of gangster-leaning into our jokes and comments—much more laid-back and cool (or, ya know, as cool as dorky students at a Baptist college can be). We were being us both nights, just us percolated in a particular vibe.

Watching Jerry Maguire makes me want to write a mission statement, even though I think mission statements are usually stupid. Reading Stephen Lawhead makes me want to write a 200,000-word epic, until I remember how much research that would involve. What I’m saying—and I don’t think I’m alone here—is that interacting with a particular type of creativity really revs up my own creative engine.

So what gets you into the head-space you need to inhabit in order to write what you’re writing now? Is it TS Elliot? Awesome! Chuck Palahniuk? Even better! Phileas and Ferb? No judgment here… Just like a smoker trying to quit needs to identify his triggers and avoid them, a writer trying to write needs to identify her triggers and use them.

We’re two thirds through NaNoWriMo; maybe you need to find that shortcut that turns on the word-flow like a faucet in order to catch up! Just like that guy trying to quit smoking, maybe you need to think back to when you did your very best writing and reverse-engineer every variable at play. What did they have in common? The same setting? The same soundtrack? The same brand of tea? The smoker trying to quit needs to avoid those cigarette triggers; the writer needs to put them in her hip pocket and use them as a secret weapon.

Happy writing!

Zachary Bartels



Zachary is giving away a copy of his latest book, Playing Saint: All Souls' Day. 

All you need to do to enter is answer the following question:

What do you do to prepare yourself to write or get into the "writing mood"?

Writerly Wednesday--The Creation of a Novel: Publication

Hi friends,

Thanks for joining me and the lovely Becky Wade over the past few months as we've video chronicled the Creation of a Novel. If you've missed any of the posts, you can find them on my sidebar and I hope you'll take a peek.

Today, however, we're talking about the most exciting part (well, one of them)....Publication. The stage where your novel is finally in print and available for readers. It's a wonderful, exciting, fulfilling nerve-wracking stage where you wonder how your readers will enjoy the story you just spent anywhere from six months to a year working on. Hope you enjoy the video!


What about you? Did anything about the Creation of a Novel surprise you? If you're published, what emotions do you feel when your first hold that bound-book in your hands?


Everyone who leaves a comment or a question will be entered to win an autographed copy of one of Dani's books (reader's choice). Thanks so much for joining us on this journey!


Dani and Becky

Writing Goals and the Holidays + Giveaway

Every November I’m convinced the holidays won’t down slow my writing.

Every year I’m wrong.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve are all joyous celebrations, but they come at the end of the year when I’m already struggling to meet my annual writing goals. Add the colder weather, a wide array of Christmas movies, and all the fun holiday activities in our area, and it’s mind-boggling I get any work done in November or December.

Taking extended time off is rarely an option for me. I do have writer friends who through careful planning manage to take December off, but I’ve never been able to do this. I have found ways to meet my writing goals and enjoy the holidays, though, and you can too!

Here are my top 4 tips.

1. Assess your current writing goals.

- Are you under deadline?

- If yes, when is the manuscript due?

- If no, how important is it to you to finish the draft/revisions before January first?

- How much of the book is finished?

- What other deadlines or writing-related projects do you have coming up right away in January or February?

2. Prioritize your list.

- Based on the above, what absolutely has to get done between now and the first of January? Be specific and write everything down. This is your Must-Do list.

- What can wait until after the holidays? This is your Upcoming list.

Now, look at the Must-Do list. Ask yourself if you had nothing on your schedule, could you get everything done on time? If your heart is tapping out Morse code at warp speed, you’re probably being too ambitious. Did you sneak a few items on there that aren’t absolutely essential? Move them to the Upcoming list. If not, don’t panic. We’ll come up with a strategy to tackle them in the next section.

Don’t be tempted to push through on your current project if you have an upcoming deadline on a different one. Even if you think you can handle both, it’s better to focus on the one with the most pressing deadline. You might get sick. Family might show up on your doorstep. A natural disaster could occur. The best case scenario? You’ll finish early and enjoy some time off.

3. Get out your calendar.

It’s time to merge your home life with your writing. Hold on, this could get bumpy! I don’t know what kind of calendar system you use. Paper? Day planner? Your phone? Whatever your preferred method, review your calendar and add any upcoming parties, kids’ sporting events or performances, family gatherings, meetings, and church events.

Now look at each week and figure out how you can fit your Must-Do writing list in with the other essentials on your calendar. Set realistic writing goals and give yourself a cushion. How? Instead of deciding to write 1200 words every day for the next three weeks, aim for 1400 words each day. Then, if something fun comes up or you get sick, you’ll have three buffer days.

Obviously, if you usually squeeze out an hour of writing every weeknight and your calendar now has two holiday events each week, you’ll have to make a decision. Skip some of the events? Lower your writing expectations? Or increase your writing on the other nights. It’s important to soak in the Christmas season, so I recommend cutting yourself some slack.

*Important: If you have a book due soon and you’re stressed about meeting your deadline, do the BARE minimum of holiday prep. Say no to any holiday gathering that isn’t essential or the highlight of your year. Ditch the Christmas cards and pare down or eliminate baking seasonal treats. If the thought of figuring out the “perfect gift” for each person on your list is eroding your stomach lining, grab the TUMS, take a deep breath and either buy gift cards or premade gift baskets. Hey, I personally love getting a gift card, and I haven’t met a gift basket I haven’t adored.*

4. Go big on lighter-workload days.

See that Tuesday when you have the entire evening clear? That’s going to be pizza night, and you, my friend, are going to make some serious progress on your book. Think of this as a gift to yourself. The sooner you knock out that Must-Do list, the sooner you can breathe easy and relax. An extra two hours here or there can make all the difference in reaching your goals.

As I made the transition from aspiring writer to full-time author, I’ve had to make some tough decisions about the holiday season. Last year I skipped sending out Christmas cards, baked two types of cookies instead of six, and ordered 75% of our Christmas gifts online. I also left about half of our decorations in the basement. Will I do this every year? I don’t know. But I refuse to feel guilty about scaling back. My writing goals are important to me, and I’m willing to sacrifice to meet them. I still enjoyed the holiday season and felt less frazzled.

The above tips can be useful for writers either on deadline or who need that extra push to stay on track with their goals. If you’re worried about losing momentum this time of year, try my method! I hope it works for you.

Do you write through the holidays? What is your top tip?


Thank you, Dani, for letting me be your guest today!


To enter for a chance to win a copy of The Rancher's Mistletoe Bride, simply leave a comment answering the following question: What is your favorite tradition during the holidays?

*International entries eligible for an eCopy

The Rancher's Mistletoe Bride

Coming Home for Christmas

Wedding planner Lexi Harrington needs a manager for her inherited Wyoming ranch. Clint Romine is the perfect man for the job, but the ruggedly handsome cowboy soon presents a new dilemma—distraction. Lexi can't fall for a small-town rancher when she's planning to return to her big-city career after the holidays. Home has always been elusive for former foster kid Clint. Working alongside Lexi at Rock Step Ranch feels too cozy—and too risky. Opening up to her means revealing a secret about his past that could jeopardize everything he holds dear. This Christmas, can Clint learn to trust Lexi with the truth…and with his heart?


Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  | iBooks


Jill Kemerer writes Christian fiction and nonfiction. She is a multi-published author of Christian romance novels for Harlequin Love Inspired. Jill's essentials include coffee, M&Ms, books and magazines, her miniature-dachshund, and taking long nature walks. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two almost-grown children. Jill loves connecting with readers, so please visit her website,


4 Ways to Stay Healthy as a Writer

It’s no secret that the writing life isn’t necessarily an active life. Being a writer means sitting in a chair for hours on end, staring at a computer screen and typing until your eyes blur and your wrists hurt. Not to mention the caffeine and sugar needed to inspire great literary works.

As an author and wellness coach, I’ve learned it takes intentionality to care for myself in the midst of the writing life.

Today I want to share 4 specific ways writers can stay healthy while typing away.

1. Understand your personal health goals.

Why exactly is it important to you to be healthy? Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to be able to concentrate during your marathon writing sessions? Are you trying to avoid, reverse, or ease the symptoms of a diagnosis? Do you want to be more at peace with yourself emotionally and spiritually?

By asking yourself these questions, you can pinpoint your personal goals for being healthy. This will then allow you to filter your next decisions accordingly.

2. Give yourself healthy fuel.

As much as caffeine and sugar may fuel your creativity – and might be okay in moderation – they’re not the best solution for long-term energy.

One of the easiest strategies for success is to have pre-prepped healthy snacks on hand that you can grab during a quick writing break.

My favorite options include pre-cut fruits and veggies, cheese slices, Larabars (apple pie is my personal favorite), or dried veggie chips.

3. Stand up and move.

When you’re in the midst of a writing session, it feels counterproductive to step away from the computer. But sometimes that’s exactly what your brain needs for a fresh burst of creativity.

You might want to set a timer every hour or 90 minutes as a reminder. When it goes off, you could take a short walk, do some stretches, or whatever else you enjoy. (If you’re looking for simple, energizing stretch routines, I offer options HERE and HERE.)

4. Protect your schedule.

This might be one of the hardest things to do, especially if you’re squeezing your writing into a full list of commitments. But stress management is just as important as diet and exercise when it comes to staying healthy.

If every hour of every day is committed somewhere, you’re missing out on the physical and mental fuel your body needs from relaxation.

Take a hard look at your schedule and ask if it’s realistic to continue at your current pace. Is there something that needs to be released? Where can you block off time to rest or have fun with friends and family?

These activities are crucial not only for a healthy body but also to keep your creativity alive.

The writing life may be sedentary, but it doesn’t have to keep you from taking care of yourself. By understanding your goals, giving yourself the right fuel, moving more, and protecting your time, you’ll be well on your way to reaching your physical and writing goals.


To enter to win a copy of Prayers for Hope and Healing, leave a comment below answering: What's one thing you do to stay healthy?

Have fun, and stay the course!


Sarah Forgrave is an author and wellness coach who loves inspiring others toward their full potential. In addition to her book, Prayers for Hope and Healing (Harvest House, October 2017), her writing credits include contributions to The Gift of Friendship, Guideposts’ A Cup of Christmas Cheer, and the webzine Ungrind. When she’s not writing or teaching, she loves to shop at Trader Joe’s or spend time with her husband and two children in their Midwest home. Visit Sarah at, or at the following sites:








Writerly Wednesday--The Creation of a Novel :: Revision Stage

Hi, friends and happy Wednesday.

Today Becky and I continue to share a glimpse into the creation of a novel.

For me, it was Blind Spot, which just released October 3rd. If you haven't grabbed your copy yet, be sure to. Reviewers are calling it aa 'major thrill ride with some fascinating twists' (Romantic Times 4 Stars).

While Becky takes you through the creation of her latest True to You. So, without further ado, here's a glimpse into the trying and terrific stage of revisions.


I hope you enjoyed today's vlog. Would love to hear how you feel about revisions? Fan or Foe?

Any tips or fun tools of the trade you must have with you? I always have my erasable gel pens, highlighters, and sticky tabs.

Oh, and yummy trail mix (walnuts, dried cranberries, and cocoa nibs) and coffee--lots and lots of coffee.

Until next week...

Blessings, Becky & Dani

Writerly Wednesday--The Horror aka The First Draft

Hi Friends and Happy Wednesday!

I have to apologize that this post got bumped back a week, but I'm extremely pleased to announce I've finished the revisions on book four in my Chesapeake Valor series. Yay! If you missed the fun cover reveal of Dead Drift, you can catch it here .

Now to the video covering the first drafts of Blind Spot and True to You. Hope you enjoy this glimpse into our process.



How about you? Are you a plotter, panster, or somewhere in between?


Dani & Becky

Writerly Wednesday--The Creation of a Book

Happy Wednesday, friends!

I'm so excited to share the first of a four-week long series that good friend Becky Wade and I did chronicling our 'Year in the Life of a Writer' though it could more aptly be titled 'The Creation of a Novel.'

We each picked a book we were about to start--Blind Spot for me and True to You for Becky, and then we made video diaries during four major stages of the creative process throughout the life of our books.

I'll be sharing a different stage each week for the next month.

It's really an exciting time as Blind Spot released just yesterday and True to You released in May! But you lucky ducks get to see the behind-the-scenes making of each novel. Lucky or brave? It could go either way. Ha! The writing life is always an adventure, but it isn't always pretty. It's full of highs and lows, and we really hope these videos will be a great way of inviting you into our process and friendship.

Becky and I have the joy and honor of being prayer partners, friends and fellow Bethany House authors. We both signed with Bethany House about the same time and we both visited Bethany House shortly after. We hit it off and have been buddies ever since. Having a prayer partner in your life, especially the writing life, is a tremendous help. Writing can be such a solitary act, that it's so good and heartwarming to have a friend praying for you who understands exactly what you're going through.

I hope you enjoy joining us along our Creation of a Novel and I'd love to hear from all of you at each stage about your writing process, or if you're a reader, if anything about the process surprised you or spurred questions. Without further ado, let's jump in and join the writing journey!



If you aren't familiar with Becky, you definitely should be. She writes enthralling contemporary romance that warms the soul. You can learn more about her here:

I've asked Becky to hang out each Wednesday for the next month and she's graciously agreed, so please give her a warm welcome, and feel free to ask both of us or either of us any pressing questions on your mind.

We'd love to hear about you? How do you go about planning your novel? Are you a plotter or a panster? Or somewhere in between?


Dani and Becky


Writerly Wednesday with Ronie Kendig

Life happens but when we have a calling, we need to make space to walk in it.

Often in my years since being contracted in 2008, I’ve had people ask me how do I find the time to write? They say their lives are so busy, it’s impossible to write. And I get it—times are rough. But the plain fact is that life will always intervene. It’s kind of like God when you tell him your plans. He’s all, “Really? Is that so? Well, let me show you . . ."

*Cue massive boulder rolling straight out of Indiana Jones to wreck your plans*

Okay, yes—that’s a bit facetious, but it’s true. Life is real. Life is raw. Life is ROUGH. But as a writer who is being published, whether indie or traditional, you have deadlines. A schedule that must be kept or that infamous domino stumbles and unleashes its chaos.

Right now, I’m doing edits on my eighteenth and nineteenth novels—both are content/macro edits, job and finances woes have hit hard, Irma hit my daughters, twins hit college and driving . . . blah blah blah LIFE. Blah blah blah. LIFE.

See? Life doesn’t quit.

And neither do I. As my husband always says, “What is there to quit to?”

So, I write on. Because it’s what I love and I refuse to let the stressors of life crush that passion. So, how do I do it? Nothing fancy. Just raw determination (which is a massive dose of that Irish stubbornness that says, “oh, yeah? Just watch!”), and a handful of things that I started doing this year:

1.     Lists

My husband is a notorious list maker. I’ve always taunted him over this and his intimate knowledge of spreadsheets. It’s a little obscene. Or so I thought, until life rushed in with floods of stress and deadlines. I had to get--*whispers* organized. I started with Mini Emergent Task Planner. It’s simple. And that’s what I needed—not another detailed, complicated thing. I had plenty of those already. This one breaks down what I have to do it into MAJOR tasks (only room for three) and “Got extra time?” tasks—with lines for four more. That’s what I use for my week. I prioritize, then GO!

2.     Planner

Yeah, remember that “not complicated” thing? Well, same thing happened when I saw amazing author Robin Carroll posting her Happy Planner pages. They were so pretty. And I wanted pretty, another way for my creativity to get unlocked. So, I opted for the week-at-a-glance pages for bigger projects and life events. At the end of the week, I rewarded myself for surviving the week and demands on my time by embellishing these pages with pretties and pictures.

3.     Be Ruthless

I’m not even kidding. Be ruthless—in protecting your time and energy. Social media can become a black hole of time, sapping energy. In fact, a research study found that people generally come away from social media less happy and less confident. Now, I limit my time online. However, I still hang out for a while because I have family in Ireland that I try to stay connected with through that online platform.

4.     Rewards

As you accomplish a task, assign a “reward” that is encouraging enough or refills your energy well. Maybe something small—watching an episode of a TV show, or reading a chapter of a new novel. Rewards should be equivalent to the task completed. One of my favorite new rewards is a bath with those delicious-smelling bath bombs. Ironically, thanks to the stunning Tamera Leigh, I’ve learned that lingering in the bath actually forces my mind to quiet down . . . and often unlocks secret pockets of creativity.

So go forth and protect yourself well!

Writing is a gift and a passion that needs a healthy, confident you.


I'm giving away a copy of Crown of Souls.

(U.S. only please)

All you need to do is leave a comment answering the following question:

What do you do to make space for what you love? Maybe it's writing, but maybe it's reading or creating in some other way?

Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author of over fifteen novels. She grew up an Army brat, and now she and her Army-veteran husband live in beautiful Northern Virginia with their children and a retired military working dog, VVolt N629. Ronie's degree in psychology has helped her pen novels of intense, raw characters. Visit Ronie online at: FB: RapidFireFiction Twitter: @RonieKendig Instagram: @kendigronie


Interview with Annie and Carrie: Co-Founders of Christian Fiction Reader's Retreat

Hi ladies! So excited to have you both on Writerly Wednesday.

1)For my readers, could you both take a moment and introduce yourselves?

Hi! I'm Annie of Just Commonly blog. I'm a designer by profession, but reading and books are my loves. In the world of books, I'm a blogger and reviewer, sharing my thoughts on almost every book / story I read, along with anything remotely related to books. I'm a novice in bookstagramming, but hope to have more fun with it in the future. 

Hello! I'm Carrie (aka MeezCarrie) from ReadingIsMySuperPower. I'm an avid reader, book reviewer, story addict, KissingBooks fan, book boyfriend collector, and cool aunt. I love Jesus and THE Story a whole lot.

2) You amazing ladies have founded, along with Bonnie Roof, the Christian Fiction Reader’s Retreat. Can you share where the idea for it came?

(Annie): Well, it was really divine planning there. I remember chatting with everyone at the Seekerville annual New Year's Eve party and the authors were talking about author retreats or conferences. I then jokingly said, "what about readers' retreats? Why haven't I heard of those?" The wonderful Bonnie Roof chimed in and said something along the lines of that it's always been her dream to have one of those. And being the crazy booknerd I am, I said, "Lets do it!" Bonnie and I conversed a bit, and she found out that Carrie of Reading is My SuperPower also was planning something of the sort. And then, a beautiful and blessed friendship began.  God's timing is always perfect, don't you think?

3) Can you tell folks a little about how it’s gone the past two years, and maybe give us a sneak peek at what you have planned for next year?

(Annie) Personally, it's been such a blessing. It exceeded ALL of my expectations from the get go. My initial thoughts were like a 20 person type retreat at a cute bed and breakfast. God had other ideas. We hit about 115 last year, when our initial cut off was half of that! The feedback have been encouraging and supportive, as well as enthusiastic for the first one as well as this year's.

For this year, author registration sold out within 36 hours of opening. I was the one that posted the info and officially started the registration process. So once it's posted, I left to go back to work. Within hours I get FB messages (that I missed at first) and text messages from Carrie saying that we've hit more than half the author capacity we set. Needless to say, it was both exciting and a little scary!

This year, CFRR was a blast. We're still testing the waters in terms of activities and scheduling, hoping to find the right balance of everything CFRR stands for and hope to achieve.  We're still in the "debriefing" stage, where we take the next 2 months to pray about next year's CFRR. So we have NO idea what's happening. Though, we've lined up some amazing authors as our speakers, Liz Curtis Higgs, Tamera Alexander, Rachel Hauck & Jen Turano. All still tentative, since it will depend on location and dates. 

(Carrie) One thing that has been a highlight for me of the planning process has been all the times God has answered prayers almost before we started praying them. Time after time, when Annie or Bonnie or I were worried about how something would work out, He provided the answer nearly immediately. Seeing those reminders that it isn’t our event but HIS has grown my faith so many times the past two years.

4) What was your favorite moment of this year’s retreat?

(Annie) Would it be cheating to say all of it? OK, if I had to choose one, I've always loved our praise and worship time, as well as the prayer times at the end of the day. It reminds me that CFRR is about honoring God, and fellowship to connect with each other as a community. In the midst of all the excitement of books and fangirling our favorite authors, remembering how God's with us each step of the way, that calms and assures me.  

(Carrie) Praise & Worship & Prayer (and the stories we’ve heard of how God worked in each) is definitely my fave, but since Annie took that one (lol) I’m going to cheat and give two answers. 

The first fave moment from this year was the speaker sessions. Yes, I know that’s kind-of cheating again, but oh well. LOL. Cynthia Ruchti and Shelley Shepard Gray both had me in smiling-tears, and Dani – your and Becky’s video diary of the stages of publication was so well-done and heartfelt. I laughed a lot but I also came away with the conviction to PRAY more for my author friends as they write their books. And the activity y’all came up with was so creative! We hated that you had to miss, but we loved that you were connected to us via the wonders of technology. 

The second fave moment is the squealing and the fangirling. And not just readers over authors. But readers over other reader friends, and authors over other author friends, and AUTHORS OVER READERS. People bursting to hug friends they haven’t seen since last year’s CFRR and friends they are just meeting in person for the first time. 

5) You both run wonderful blogs. Could you each share a little about your blogs?

(Annie) My blog is Just Commonly and I tend to post mostly reviews or anything related to books, but I also will randomly post things that are not even remotely related.  Just Commonly started as more of a little outlet of what I thought of things and it just transformed itself to more of a book blog.  

(Carrie) My blog is Reading Is My SuperPower, and I review mostly Christian and ‘clean’ reads. On Tuesdays, I do a top ten list on some bookish topic and I head up a First Line Friday blog linkup on Fridays, plus some other fun stuff. It started about 2 years ago when I needed someone to talk to about all these great books I was reading!

6) What’s your favorite part about blogging?

(Annie) Favorite part about blogging is how blogging connected me to like-minded booklovers, like Carrie. This book loving community is so supportive, and it doesn't even necessarily have to be about books. I'm one of those introvert-introverts. My perfect "me time" is lounging around, reading a book and drinking tea or coffee. I don't actually have a lot of friends that enjoy reading as much as I do.  So having met so many through blogging have become such a blessing.

(Carrie) The relationships. I love interacting with readers and authors and other bloggers. Some of my most treasured friendships have come out of these interactions. I also just love getting to push books at people, let’s be honest 😉

7) How do authors who’d like to participate in either CFRR or be featured on your blogs contact you?

(Annie) Authors interested in participating in CFRR can sign up for our author newsletter on our website under, "2018 Interested Authors Newsletter" midway down on the right sidebar.

To contact me to be featured on my blog, you can use the "Contact Me" tab on my website.

(Carrie) To be featured on Reading Is My SuperPower, you can find all the info on my ‘Contact Me’ tab as well! 

8) Who are the authors you are most excited about?

(Annie) Dani, I think this is a very tricky question, since you might not want my answer to be too long!! *wink wink* OK, off the top of my head, I love Jen Turano, Kristi Ann Hunter, Julie Lessman, Ruth Logan Herne, Shelley Shepard Gray, Amy Clipston, Becky Wade, Tamera Alexander, Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, Pepper Basham, Katie Ganshert, Rachel Hauck, Roseanna White, Lynette Eason, Cynthia Ruchti, Melanie Dickerson... OK, you see what you started (and there are more too)?! But there's always, always Ms. Dani Pettrey, that took my breath away with Still Life!

(Carrie) This is an impossible question, Dani!! I even tried to answer it … and my list lapped Annie’s by a couple dozen. And there were STILL MORE I unintentionally omitted. So… yeah. I’m excited about a lot of authors lol. 

9) What’s your favorite genre?

(Annie) It's a toss up between Contemporary and Historical fiction, but I've come to really enjoy suspense since I started last year. 

(Carrie) In broad terms, romantic suspense. Because that can span contemporary and historical. It doesn’t have to be technically categorized as ‘romantic suspense’ though – if it’s got romance, some level of suspense, and it’s not smutty? I’m there.

10) Lightening round: Coffee or tea?

(Annie) Can't choose. It depends on my mood and the book.  

(Carrie) Will you still love me if I say neither? Hot chocolate or hot cider, please 😊

Chocolate or is there anything else?

(Annie) Dark Chocolate!!

(Carrie) Milk chocolate BUT under the ‘anything else’ category I would submit strawberry Starburst

Paperback or e-book?  

(Annie) Paperback /

(Carrie) Either … but some books just need to be read in print.

Favorite city:  

(Annie) New York

(Carrie) Atlanta

Beach or mountains?

(Annie) Small Town with a Bookstore. =P

(Carrie) Mountains, especially if there’s a cabin filled with books! And a small town in the valley with a bookstore =P

Go-to snack: 

(Annie) Dove Promises in Dark Chocolate with Almonds

(Carrie) An apple with peanut butter… or strawberry starburst lol.


(Annie) Thank you, Dani for having us on your Writerly Wednesday segment! It's been such a pleasure and blessing to have met you!

(Carrie) Amen times 1000. Such an honor! 

Thank you, ladies both so much for being here. It was such a pleasure!


Annie and Carried have graciously offered to give away CFRR branded luggage grip and page flags.


I’m also giving away an autographed copy of Blind Spot as soon as I have my author copies along with some swag goodies.

To be entered just answer the following question in the comment’s section below.

Have you ever attended a reader’s retreat? If so, which one? If not, would you love to?





Interview With Cynthia Ruchti from Books & Such Literary Management

I am super excited to have the awesome and fabulously talented, Cynthia Rutchi, joining me on this Writerly Wednesday. If you don’t yet know Cynthia, you’re in for a treat.


Hi Cynthia, thanks so much for joining me on Writerly Wednesday. Could you take a moment and yourself to my readers?


I came into the publishing world through the back door. I worked in the medical field--in a chemistry laboratory of a large medical facility--for the first several years after I married my husband. When our first two children were little, I "retired" from that pursuit to stay home with the kids, grow a big garden, can or freeze everything we could raise or forage, sew, knit, make homemade bread, and watch Little House on the Prairie.

I also took correspondence courses in creative writing so my brain cells didn't stagnate. I didn't envision a career in writing or publishing, but thought I might gain enough skills to write an occasional magazine article, newspaper human interest piece, or put together decent devotionals for baby and bridal showers.

But God had other plans in mind. Two weeks after finishing the final correspondence course, I was handed the opportunity to write a 15-minute scripted broadcast for radio. That broadcast recently retired after 33 years on the air.

By the time the broadcast retired, I had published my first novel. I'd been writing fiction and nonfiction all those years, so it was far more natural for me to do both. Since 2010, I've been blessed to have more than twenty books published, with more contracted.


You're a writer, and now an agent with Books & Such. How do you juggle the demands of both?


It may seem repetitive, but I came into agenting through the back door, too! I hadn't been looking for that position. But after a few months in this role, I can tell that God had been grooming me for it. I love everything about agenting (except having to say no so often), just as I love everything about the writing, publishing, and marketing process.

I'm less a juggler than I am working a literary circuit--like the exercise gyms that rotate clients from station to station in order to get a full workout for all muscle groups. I spend time working on my own proposals, then as an agent tweaking my client's proposals. I flesh out ideas for marketing my latest releases, then brainstorm with a client about his or her marketing needs.

I move from fiction to nonfiction, from ACFW responsibilities to agent responsibilities to author responsibilities. They're not only related to each other, but inform and strengthen one another. I have just enough ADD in me to make me okay with jumping from project to project, from writing devotions to creating a press release to pulling together a magazine article to reading through a client's contract.

Exhausting? Sometimes. Like a good workout.



How are you enjoying being an agent? What's your favorite aspect?


My favorite parts of agenting relate to relationships with publishers and clients, finding a perfect match between an author's ideas and a publisher's needs, and interacting (aka, learning from) the other agents within Books & Such. It's energizing, too, to help a proposal go from good to polished.


Why the decision to go into agenting?

Even though the invitation came as a surprise, it quickly made perfect sense. I've long cared about helping other authors succeed. I'm an encourager at heart and propelled by hope. God has given me unique opportunities to get a peek at many facets of the publishing industry--which makes me more informed as an agent and sympathetic to all sides of the equation, even while cheering hard for my clients.


What are five fun facts most people don't know about you?


  • I used to play the bass drum in the marching band. (Most directors frowned on carrying a bassoon while marching).
  • I was a baton twirler (majorette) in middle school and part of high school. (I know. Scary to think about, isn't it?)
  • I've hiked the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska. (Okay, part of it.)
  • I've been whitewater rafting in Colorado.
  • I was paid for one of my first online writing projects in chocolate. That's right.


Wow. How fun to be paid in chocolate. My kind of payment ;)


Are you accepting submissions and, if so, what are you looking for and what is the best way to contact or query you?

Yes to accepting submissions. I'm focused primarily on nonfiction, but I'm interested in a few fiction clients. As any agent will say, whether fiction or nonfiction, I'm looking for strong writing skills, a significant built-in audience (platform), and a compelling story from writers who understand the power of a well-turned phrase and the importance of a fresh approach. Those seeking representation can send a short email inquiry to or connect through the information provided on the Submissions page.


Thanks so much for joining us, Cynthia. In honor of her graciousness in visiting Writerly Wednesday, I’m giving away a copy of Cynthia’s latest release, A Fragile Hope.

Simply leave a comment or answer ask Cynthia a question, and you’ll automatically be entered to win. The winner will be contacted next week. Thanks again to Cynthia for joining us.


Cynthia Ruchti tells stories "hemmed in Hope" through novels, novellas, nonfiction, devotions, and through speaking events for women and writers. Many of her more than 20 books have been recognized by key industry awards. Cynthia serves as the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) professional relations liaison and is an agent with Books & Such Literary Management. She and her grade school sweetheart husband live in the heart of Wisconsin.






Interview with Rel Mollet from Relz Reviews


I’m so ecstatic to have the amazing Rel Mollet on Writerly Wednesday. If you aren’t familiar with Rel, you need to be. Be sure to check out her fabulous book review site Relz Reviewz. Rel is a wonderful lady, friend, and incredible supporter of Christian Fiction and she’s been kind enough to answer some questions about the blogger/author relationship and lots more. Thanks so much, Rel, for sharing your time and expertise.


Hi Rel, I'm thrilled to be interviewing you for Writerly Wednesday. Thank you so much for taking time out of your super busy schedule to spend a little time with us today. For those of us who don't know you, could take a minute and introduce yourself?


Hey Dani! It’s such a treat for me to share with you and your readers ? Mmm…I love talking about books and authors, myself, not so much! But for you, I’ll try! On the home front, I’m married to Steve and we have three gorgeous teen daughters and one handsome black lab, Sherlock. Our home is in the world’s most live-able city, Melbourne, Australia.

My love of literature began before I could read and has only exploded from there. I’ve been reviewing/blogging at for over ten years and after a 21 year career as a lawyer, I now have my dream job and business, Relz Author Support Services, providing virtual assistance to Christian novelists.



I'd love to take a few minutes to chat about the author/blogger relationship. How do you view the relationship between reviewer/blogger and authors?


Fun question! As a reviewer, my relationship with authors is at arm’s length in a way. When it comes to book reviews, my first obligation is to readers of my blog. Long term readers (I still can’t believe there are people who actually read my blog every week!) rely on me for recommendations, so it is important that I provide quality reviews that are honest and reflect my thoughts on the book as independently as possible. I have one dear reader who calls me her ‘book compass’ (waving to you, Amy!), and I take that honour very seriously.

As a book blogger, however, there’s nothing I love more than supporting authors and connecting them to readers. That is why you will find author interviews, character spotlights, author alerts, cover art posts, and more on the blog as I want to be able to showcase books – even ones that aren’t necessarily to my taste – so all kinds of readers and all kinds of authors can make connections.

My blog is dedicated to faith-driven fiction, and a mutual love of books and a shared faith, has meant I have connected on a deeper level with some authors. What began as simply promoting an author on my blog has, in some instances, resulted in very dear friendships that I value more than I can say. If I do review a book by an author I have a deeper connection with, I always disclose that to my readers so they are fully informed.



I can't image the number of authors you've interacted with over the years. You are definitely a champion for CBA authors and we greatly appreciate all you do. How can we as authors be helpful to you?


You are very kind, Dani – thank you. Authors can be helpful to me and other bloggers in lots of ways. Here’s a few thoughts…

  • Read our Review policies! Most bloggers will outline what books they are willing to feature and ones they are not. If it is clear an author hasn’t paid attention to the blogger’s policy, it is unlikely to garner a positive response.
  • Engage with the blogger’s audience. If you are featured on a blog, be sure to stop by and respond to any comments directed to you. Not only does that endear you to the readers who have taken the time to comment, it also lifts the blogger’s profile, too. A win-win!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for exposure! Bloggers blog in their spare time. We don’t always have the time to approach all the authors we would like to feature. Email your favourite bloggers and ask if they can feature you and your book. Don’t be shy or assume we won’t be interested (if your book complies with the review policy, that is!)
  • Be open to a feature, rather than a review. Yes, reviews are great but top bloggers are often swamped with books to read and review. By all means request a review, but be open (or offer) a feature to a blogger. They will more often than not be happy to oblige.
  • Show appreciation. If you have been featured on a blog – especially if you have requested it – be sure to send an email of thanks or comment on the blog. We do this for love – yes, we often receive a free book (but not always) – but bloggers spend countless hours reading, preparing a post, adding links and graphics for that free book. A thank you takes little time, but means so much.
  • Provide pictures! If you are being interviewed on a blog, it’s always lovely to be provided a picture relating to the interview. Readers love it, too.
  • Be understanding. As mentioned above, book blogging is a labour of love, taking a lot of time and effort, working around family life, paid work, and other obligations. Sometimes we miss deadlines or forget to post a planned feature. Never hesitate to gently remind us if we have missed something, but please understand that it is unlikely to be intentional and we feel very badly when it happens!


Given the above answers, it's clear you're a veteran blogger. How have you seen the CBA industry change over the years since you started blogging?



There have been significant changes over the past decade. Many positive changes and some more challenging. Overall, however, I believe the changes have been for the better. The quality and breadth of CBA novels has improved greatly. The available genres have increased. Indie publishing has provided a wonderful opportunity for books to be published that traditional publishers haven’t been in a position to take on for a variety of reasons. This has led to an extension of the reading audience for authentic, faith infused fiction and made it more accessible to those who really need the redemptive themes without the ‘perfect’ characters.

If you could sit down with an author over a cup of coffee, what one piece of advice or encouragement would you give them?


Write what the Lord has placed on your heart to write. Nothing else.



You are also an author virtual assistant. Can you talk a little bit about how you entered into that role?



For years, I dreamt about working with authors, wondering how I could translate my passion into a career that would serve others in an industry I feel so strongly about. I thought it was a pipe dream. Then circumstances intervened. My legal career ended suddenly and I was at a loss. The next day, yes, the very next day, I received an email from a publisher, asking me if I’d be interested in doing a little contract work for them. That gave me the inspiration to talk with some dear friends in the industry who provided wisdom and encouragement and Relz Author Support Services was born.


What you do love about working with authors so much?


I love who they are and why they do what they do! I love their passion and heart for the power of story and their commitment to their faith. Every one of my clients write to honour God. They devote time, angst, heartache, rejection, and criticism to provide stories that bring joy, challenge, encouragement, entertainment, hope, and inspiration to their readers. Yes, some receive decent money for the effort they put in, most don’t. Yet they write. I have benefitted enormously, over decades of reading, from stories which have moved me, comforted me, and challenged me to be a better person. If I can free my authors up, even a little, so they can do what God has called them to do, then I’m honoured.


Thank you, Rel, for being such an advocate for authors! You're amazing.

You can find Rel at Relz Reviewz offers author interviews, character spotlights, book reviews, contests and giveaways, publishing news, and cover art sneak peeks for the best in Christian fiction. You can connect with Rel over at her Facebook Page.


This week I'm giving away a $10 egift card to Starbucks. Leave a comment answering the question below to be entered to win.

Rel shares that one of her big pipe dreams was to work with authors and her dream became a reality. What is one of your pipe dream? 

Interview with Senior Book Buyer Rachel McRae


Dani: Hi Rachel, Thanks so much for being on Writerly Wednesday. For those who don't know you, could you take a moment and introduce yourself?

Rachel: Sure, I’m Rachel McRae and I’m the Senior Book Buyer for LifeWay Christian Stores.  Nashville, TN has been home for the last 16 years and I’m originally from East Tennessee.  For my job, I oversee all of the adult trade books in our stores.  I spend a lot of my time working on Fiction and that’s just fine by me as it’s my favorite category!

Dani: Having the job you do and knowing you, it's obvious you love what you do, and you love stories. What is it about books you love so much?

Rachel: What’s ironic is that I was not a fan of reading growing up.  I read the Little House on the Prairie series because all of my friends did and I read Anne of Green Gables because I found Gilbert Blythe to be oh-so dreamy.  Beyond that, you would never find me with a book.  

Fast forward to college and you would have heard me proclaiming that I would never be a buyer.  I wanted to be a Christian bookstore manager.   Given all of that, it’s funny to me that I’m now a book buyer.  It shows that God certainly had other plans!  

This job certainly has given me a love of books and especially for Christian fiction.  I love how stories can provide a welcomed escape from the normal grind of daily life.  Even if I can only get through one chapter on a quick lunch break at my desk, I find myself refreshed enough to carry on through the day.  

While I enjoy general market fiction, there’s something special about Christian fiction.  Melody Carlson was quoted in an article I read years ago as saying, “Christian fiction is one of the best evangelism tools there is.”  I wholeheartedly agree with that.  Sharing a novel that has themes of love, forgiveness, faith, and redemption all wrapped up in a powerful story can speak to a person’s heart and make them think upon the Lord.  I love that Christian fiction has a higher purpose in addition to being a form of entertainment.

Dani: There's always the doomsday talk about all bookstores closing, but LifeWay seems to be doing stronger than ever, which I'm so happy to see. What is it about LifeWay that helps it stand so strong, and where do you see bookstores in general in the next five years?

Rachel: We are in interesting times within the Christian retail industry.  The recent closing of Family Christian Stores was a hard day.  I’ve had people say to me that we must be excited that stores like Family are going out of business.  I quickly tell them no and that we never see it that way.  These stores are a part of the greater mission we all support so to lose even one store, let alone a full chain of stores, is a blow for all of us.

LifeWay Christian Stores has been blessed to be weathering the changing tides in our industry a bit better than others.  There are several reasons for that, but one of the main ones is that we are a part of a bigger organization.  As a division of LifeWay Christian Resources, we have constant support in all areas of our business from our corporate office.  Because all of our divisions benefit each other and support each other, LifeWay Christian Stores has a more solid base in our finances, operations, and future growth opportunities.  

We are currently pouring resources into our stores that will set us up well for future growth and sustainability.  We have increased our training for our associates so they can better assist customers and churches.  We’re in the middle of implementing a lot of new systems both in our stores and in the corporate office.  That may not sound too glamourous but new technology will allow us to serve our customers and churches in more personal ways as well as to help us manage our business efficiently.  

These investments plus many others will help us to be good stewards of what God has entrusted us with.  As we continue to seek His guidance and direction, we trust that He will lead LifeWay into the years ahead to accomplish the work He has given us.

Dani: Being the fiction buyer, you know what attracts readers to books. What is it that draws them in when they walk into a LifeWay store? The cover, back cover copy, author's name, bookseller recommendation?

Rachel: It’s honestly a combination of all of that.  One is not more important than the other.  When a publisher presents a new novel to me, I immediately critique the cover.  If I see something that might hinder the book grabbing someone’s interest, then I’ll share those thoughts with them.  Sometimes even the slightest change to a font or brightening up the color of a girl’s dress can make a big difference.

If we’ve gotten the shopper’s attention long enough to pick it up and read the cover to learn about the story, then we certainly need that description to be impactful and leaving the reader wanting to know more.  

Of course, the best selling tool for a novel comes by way of a recommendation.  I hope that LifeWay Christian Store customers know us enough to trust the novels we recommend to them through our  promotions, on social media, and more importantly, by our store associates.  If you love a book or a particular writer, you want to tell people about it.  Word of mouth will always be the best bookseller!

Dani: For authors, what can they be doing to come alongside LIfeWay and help support your stores?

Rachel: Some of our best friends at LifeWay are our authors!  We see you as an integral part of our ministry.  You are entrusting us with your talents and your own ministry and we want to serve you well.

We love partnering with authors in a variety of ways.   We always invite you to get to know the LifeWay Christian Store in your area.  Meet the managers and ask if you could sign a few copies of any of your books they have on the shelf.  You could even do a post or a tweet about how your local store has some limited quantities of signed copies.  

Authors can encourage readers to buy their book at LifeWay.  Online shopping is great but you can never replace the experience you have in a Christian book store.  From the selection of titles you can actually pick up and flip through, to getting help with your questions, to seeing all of the other great resources we have around the store, customers can have a fun and encouraging experience at their local store.

Oh, and a side note… LifeWay Christian Stores price matches other retailers and online stores.  Our customers love being able to shop and support us while still getting a great deal should a book be a bit cheaper somewhere else.

Dani: Finally, who are some authors you see really shining in the industry and who are some new names to be on the lookout for?

Rachel: I’m excited to see some upward trajectory in 2017 on novelists like Katie Ganshert, Laura Frantz, Jocelyn Green, and Kristy Cambron.  These ladies have been writing for a few years but we’re seeing some nice growth with them.  Lisa Harris, Kristi Ann Hunter, Tessa Afshar, and Susan Mason are authors that are being discovered by our customers, too.  I would encourage you to check out Connilyn Cossette, Liz Johnson, Rachelle Dekker, Sarah Loudin Thomas, and Julianna Deering if you haven’t had a chance yet.

There are a lot of great new novels coming in the second half of 2017.  I’m excited that Randy Singer is back with a new legal thriller this fall.  Two of my favorites, Lynn Austin and Kate Breslin, both have titles coming.  Allison Pittman is back with an intriguing look at Martin Luther’s wife in October.  I also think readers will enjoy The Promise of Breeze Hill by Pam Hillman, Freedom’s Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli, and Jane of Austin by Hilary Manton Lodge.

We also have several debut novelists to look forward to.  Two that I’m personally looking forward to are Joanna Davidson Politano with Lady Jayne Disappears, coming in October, and Jamie Jo Wright with The House on Foster Hill in December,

Oh, and I can’t help but mention my excitement over another novel in the Chesapeake Valor series from Dani Pettrey!  Customers are already asking for Blind Spot now!

Dani: You’re so sweet! Thanks so much ☺ I’m thrilled to hear that readers are excited about Blind Spot. Thank you for taking the time to visit with us and share your insight today. I so appreciate having you on Writerly Wednesday!

Rachel McRae is the Senior Book Buyer for LifeWay Christian Stores.  Be sure to follow her on Twitter at @LifeWay_Books



I’m giving away an e-gift card to LifeWay so one lucky reader can pick up one of the fabulous authors or titles you recommended. To be entered to win the gift card, just answer this question in the comment’s section below.

Which Christian fiction release are you most looking forward to this year?


Do You Have Imposter Syndrome?

Writers Do You Have Imposter Syndrome This week I'm celebrating the sale of a client's project to a dream publisher—a project I first saw (and loved) two years ago. I knew the moment I read the manuscript that it was something special. I resonated with the author's story and her writing, and I felt very strongly that many others would too. Eventually.

My instinct was that it wasn't the right timing to put it out to publishers. I suggested she take some time to polish the manuscript, while also working on her blog and building her platform. I told her the market wasn't ready for it, and I didn't want to show it to publishers at the wrong time. I promised I'd be watching for the right time and the right editors to send it to. She handled all of this like a professional. She improved her manuscript. She continued blogging—and being patient.

Meanwhile, I was second guessing myself. It's risky to ask a client to be patient, to trust me to find the right timing to give their project the best chance for success. Do I really know what I'm doing? What if I'm wrong? What if this long wait doesn't pay off for my client?

I get mired in Impostor Syndrome occasionally. In fact, I think many people do - writers included.

Impostor Syndrome is when you have those moments of thinking: I can't do this! People think I can do this, but I've got them all fooled! I'm a fraud! A poser! A fake! I'm not REALLY an agent/novelist/physician/teacher/take your pick. They are going be on to me soon!

But then ... we have those moments when we're reminded that we do, in fact, sort of know what we're doing. I had that moment yesterday when the editor I'd hand-picked for my client's book called me with an offer. I'd been patient, watched the market, determined the timing was right—and it paid off. I had to take a moment to acknowledge that I do know just a teensy bit about what I'm doing. Maybe I'm not an impostor after all.

I think it's important to be aware of the insecurity that makes us sometimes feel like a fraud; and to remind ourselves that we do have talents, skills, and abilities. The most helpful thing I've done to keep my confidence strong is a simple sticky note on my computer:

Sticky note

"This is what I do." Every day when I sit down to work, that sentence reminds me that I know what I'm doing; that I don't need to waste energy thinking it's too hard or I can't do it; that I've put years into learning this job; that I can simply start the day with confidence, do my job, and always be open to learning how to do it better.


I (Dani) am giving away a copy of one of my books (your choice!). Simply answer the question below in the comments for your chance to win and be sure to tell me which book you would like to win!

What about you? Do you ever feel like an impostor? What makes you feel that way? What reminds you of the truth about yourself?


Rachelle GardnerRachelle Gardner is a literary agent with Books and Such Literary Agency. She is an experienced editor, writing/publishing coach, and speaker. She has been working in publishing since 1995.

You can follow Rachelle on Facebook.

My Top Five Suggestions for People Thinking about Writing a Book

As I considered my options for what to write about in this blog post, I decided to address the question I get the most whenever someone discovers I’m an author. That question is always a form of this – “I’ve been thinking about writing a book. What suggestions can you give me?” I must admit that my first impulse is to tell that person to run as fast as they can away from that type of thinking. However, that’s hardly helpful, so I’ve compiled a list of my top five suggestions which might be a little better than…run.

Top Five Suggestions for People Thinking about Writing a Book

  • Have an honest talk with yourself about why you want to write that book.

If you simply love story and want to experience the satisfaction of writing an entire book, that’s great. I say get writing. But, if you’re thinking about writing a book because you want to pursue writing as a career, that changes everything. Publishing is a business, and it’s a daunting business, which means you need to…

  • Understand the scope of your competition.

When I first started writing, I had no idea what I was up against. I figured there were a lot of writers out there, but it’s almost unfathomable to grasp exactly how many writers are even now bent over their keypads, writing away. To give you an idea what your competition looks like, out here in Denver, we have a highly respected literary agency, but it’s small and represents under forty clients, most of whom are New York Times bestselling authors. Having said that, they receive over 30,000 query letters a year, and yet take on an average of two new clients a year from those 30,000 queries. That means your work needs to stand out, and also means…

  • You should have an above-average grasp of the English language.

I know that seems somewhat simplistic, but I encounter aspiring writers all the time who struggle with basic grammar and yet don’t believe that’ll stifle their goal of getting published in the end. Here’s the thing – when you have agents getting tens of thousands of queries a year, grammar matters. If they find numerous grammatical errors in your query letter, or in the first chapter of your work, they’ll reject it because they have thousands of other submissions that don’t have that problem. Editing is one of the most expensive aspects of publishing, so a publishing house does not want to sign on authors with grammar issues because fixing those issues is expensive. So be honest with yourself about your abilities.

  • You need to be a voracious reader.

Reading is one of the best learning tools a writer has. Every genre has unspoken rules, and by reading in your genre of choice, you’ll understand those rules. You’ll also have a better grasp of what your future target audience expects. I’m always taken aback when I ask an aspiring writer what the last five books were in the genre they’re thinking of pursuing, and they tell me they don’t read. I haven’t come up with a good response to that yet, although I think standing there with my mouth hanging open speaks for itself.

  • And last, but not least, understand that it can take a very long time to find success in this industry.

First books are often not worthy of publication and that’s okay. You should look at them like stepping stones, and you might have more than one book that never gets published. I have seven, and again, that’s okay with me. They were my stepping stones, and with each one written and rejected, I received wonderful, and occasionally scathing, advice from agents, pointing out in detail what I was doing wrong. Did that advice hurt at times? You bet it did. However, I learned so much, and if I would have taken the rejections to heart and abandoned my writing, I would have never seen one of my books in print, which I have to admit is a very cool thing to see.

So there you have it – my top five suggestions. Thanks for stopping by, and if you are an aspiring writer, good luck and God bless!


And now, a question for you to answer if you’d like to enter to win a copy of “Behind the Scenes.”

What is another suggestion a person thinking about writing a book might find helpful? 

Leave your answer in the comments for a chance to win!

jen turanoA USA Today Best-Selling Author, Jen Turano is known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age. When she’s not writing, Jen spends her time roaming around Denver with her husband and friends. She can be found on Facebook at, or visit her on the web at She is represented by the Natasha Kern Literary Agency.

Writing: My personal time machine

One of the primary reasons I write is to share my love for the place I grew up and the ancestors who have lived there for more than two hundred years. Especially since so many of those people are long gone.

I grew up in a house where we told stories. Well, mostly my dad told stories. And they were TRUE stories. Well, mostly true stories.

Dad’s family has lived in that little corner of West Virginia for seven generations. (I’m the seventh–my nieces and nephews are the eighth). My ancestors reach back to the days when West Virginia was just Virginia. And the tales have accumulated like leaf litter, growing deeper and richer year after year.

There were the characters I actually met–Gail Phillips, (great) Grandma Jane, (great) Aunt Bess and a handful of other aunts, uncles, and cousins. Then there were the characters I could never know firsthand–Grandpa Rex, Grandma Nellie, Uncle Judd, Celly, and a whole raft of other, colorful characters.

These people live in Dad’s stories. They were and still are real to me. Which is why I was so delighted the day I went to see Aunt Bess, then almost 100-years-old, and she forgot who was dead and who was still alive.

Aunt Bess had shared stories about my family before, but on this day, she thought family members long gone were still around. She said she guessed Judd and Rex were still up there on the farm. I was taken aback at first, but decided to play along. “They are,” I said. “Judd put in a garden?” “He has—and it’s doing real well.”

She said he always grew the best tomatoes. And I could just picture my great uncle in the garden staking tomato plants and pinching back suckers so the fruit would thrive. I could see him picking a ripe tomato and eating it with some of Aunt Bess’s amazing bread. It was all so clear—so very real.

And so we chatted about family–the people whose stories I knew so well they were practically still alive to me. And for the space of an afternoon, Aunt Bess and I traveled back in time and those people were alive. They grew tomatoes and basked in the sunshine of a mountain summer. And I’m pretty sure they loved me like they’d known me since the day I was born.

Aunt Bess is gone now. She was 102 when she was finally reunited with everyone who had gone on before. And Gail is gone and Grandma Jane’s been gone and so are most all the rest.

But not really. Not so long as I have a time machine built into my heart and my mind that lets me set these people down on paper. It’s something well worth writing about.

Tapestry of Secrets Giveaway


Sarah is generously giving away a copy of her book, A Tapestry of Secrets. Simply answer the question below in the comments for a chance to win.

What family story do you think would make a great novel?

Sarah LoudinSarah Loudin Thomas grew up on a 100-acre farm in French Creek, WV. Her Christian fiction is set in West Virginia and celebrates the people, the land, and the heritage of Appalachia. Her first novel, Miracle in a Dry Season, released in 2014 through Bethany House and won several awards for debut fiction. Her fourth novel, The Sound of Rain, releases in November 2017.

Sarah and her husband Jim live in the mountains of Western North Carolina where she currently oversees fundraising and communications for a Christian children’s home in Black Mountain, NC. Sarah is active in her local church and enjoys cooking and–you guessed it–reading.