The Challenges of Category Cookery

By Laurel Blount

I am a sucker for cooking shows, aren’t you? My personal favorite is the Great British Baking Show, where contestants compete to create challenging dishes in a specified amount of time. It’s exciting to see the frantic bakers rushing around, trying their best to beat the clock and still produce a delicious, edible masterpiece.

It’s exciting, but it’s not all that realistic, is it? Because, honestly—those people have every ingredient they need at their fingertips, and even work in a special kitchen with lots of bells and whistles.

If you want to talk about a real challenge, ask a cook to create a nutritious, gluten-free, totally organic, easy-to-prepare meal for some very important guests—in an hour. And here’s the kicker, she can use only the specific ingredients currently available in her pantry. Oh, and one more thing: it has to taste so fabulous that everybody asks for a second helping!

I think we can all agree; the cook who pulls that off deserves all the praise and recognition we can shower upon her! And probably a nap.

This, my friends, is similar to the ninja-skills that writing high-quality Christian category romance requires. Ever since I tied on my own literary apron in this particular kitchen, let me tell you—my chef’s hat is off to all my much-more-skilled writer-sisters who offer their readers such delicious stories over and over again, all while staying within the boundaries of the genre.

My publisher, Love Inspired, is dedicated to producing a particular kind of experience for readers. They’ve developed some tried-and-true standards regarding the sort of hooks, plot tropes and characters they love to see in their books. My job as an author is to produce a story that fits within the Love Inspired brand, but which is also fresh and exciting—and which brings my readers back for more.

Just in case you’re ready to tie on your apron for this particular challenge—here are a few tips that you might find helpful:

  1. Start with the basic recipe. Study the guidelines and read the books. I know, I know, everybody tells you that! But the brand is very important in this category, and these elements aren’t usually negotiable. Think of it this way—whenever you cook for an important guest (and our wonderful readers are definitely our v.i.p.s!) you need to know what your parameters are. Gluten-free? Dairy-free? Organic? Diabetic-friendly? No matter how sumptuous a meal you prepare, if it doesn’t follow the requested guidelines it’s likely to be sent back to the kitchen. In one story proposal, I began with the hero already deeply in love with her heroine—who thought of him only as a friend. My editor explained that in Love Inspired, they preferred to see the love grow between the characters during the course of the story. He could be attracted to her, but his deeper feelings needed to develop over time. I changed that element and sold the book.
  2. Once you’ve got the basics down, take a good look into your own particular pantry. What spices can you mix in to make your story uniquely fresh and uniquely yours? For example, in my debut novel for Love Inspired A Family for the Farmer, I pulled on my country-girl experiences of milking a cow, being a midwife to a goat, and coping with a really opinionated goose to add some fun to my story. Sprinkle in your special touch to add a one-of-a-kind flavor to your book!
  3. And finally—be sure to pay close attention to any feedback or tips from the experts. The wonderful editors are the Julia Childs of category fiction. They know their biz inside and out, and they are dedicated to making each author’s story as delicious as it possibly can be! Emily Rodmell, an experienced editor at Love Inspired, frequently offers valuable writing tips via Twitter or Facebook. Look her up!

I’ll leave you with one last tidbit. You know what really draws me to The Great British Baking Show? The sweet camaraderie among the contestants! It warms my heart to see these folks cheering each other on, helping each other solve ticklish problems, and tearfully hugging when somebody gets sent home. They’re each dedicated to doing their individual best in the contest, but they’re equally dedicated to being supportive and helpful to their fellow bakers. I love that—and I’ve found the same type of warm-hearted fellowship among the Love Inspired authors.

If you’re interested in writing for this market, I’d strongly suggest you attend some conferences, attend the Love Inspired workshops and open house events, and meet some of these amazing writers and editors. And be sure to like and follow their professional accounts on social media and sign up for their newsletters, too! (I’d especially recommend joining the Love Inspired Authors and Readers Group on Facebook. That’s one of my favorites!) You won’t be sorry. Not only are these folks talented—they’re also just delightfully fun people!

Okay, enough talking, am I right? The oven timer is ticking, and it’s time to get to work. Grab your spoon—or pen—and start baking up a really fabulous story!

Click to tweet:  This, my friends, is similar to the ninja-skills that writing high-quality Christian category romance requires.


Laurel Blount lives on a small farm in middle Georgia with her husband, their four children, and an assortment of very spoiled animals. She divides her time between farm chores, homeschooling, and writing. She’s busy, but at least she’s never bored!
Laurel writes inspirational contemporary romance, and Hometown Hope is her third title for Harlequin’s Love Inspired. A fourth book is scheduled for publication on January 2020. She’s received a Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award for Excellence and has also finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards. She’s represented by Jessica Alvarez of Bookends Literary Agency.
Whenever she’s not working, you can find Laurel with a cup of tea at her elbow, a cat in her lap, and a good book in her hand. Stay in touch by signing up for Laurel’s monthly newsletter at www.laurelblountbooks.com.

3 Questions Wednesday with Lillian Duncan

Hello, friends! Please welcome author Lillian Duncan.

Good morning, Lillian. Tell us, who is your favorite author?

It depends on if you’re talking current authors or classic authors. For current authors, I would have to say Terri Blackstock. I love her suspense books.

A great choice. Now . . .

If you could write about anyone or anything fiction/nonfiction who or what would you write about?

God, specifically God’s Word. There is so much peace, joy, wisdom and power to be found in the Bible but we cheat ourselves by not accessing it.

I agree! Next question . . .

If you could spend time with a character from your book or another book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day? (PG please)

Oh my! I love all the characters I’ve created through the years. I would hate to hurt any of their feelings but… I’m going to go with Nia from my Puzzle House series. I first met her in Puzzle House and then learned more about her in my latest release, The David Years.

What would I do with her? Just hang with her and have her pray over me since she’s been given the gift of healing.

Nia sounds like an interesting character! Lillian, thank you for joining us today!

Click to Tweet: 3 Questions Wednesday with Lillian Duncan. Learn about her new book, The David Years. #writerslife #amreading @InspiredPrompt

GIVEAWAY: To celebrate the release of The David Years, Lillian is having a giveaway. FIVE lucky winners will receive their choice of one ebook. To be entered, go to www.lillian-duncan.com then leave a comment under one of THE DAVID YEARS posts. EASY-PEASY!


Nia Johnson has spent the past four years developing a closer relationship to God. She wants to believe she’s still anointed to become a healer at Puzzle House, but as each year passes, she has more and more doubts.

Now that she’s graduated from high school and is an adult, she is sure it’s time to take the mantle of healing Rachel passed to her so many years ago. Nia thought her learning years—her David Years—were over, but the harder she tries to move forward, the more her destiny seems to elude her.


Lillian Duncan… turning faith into fiction.

Lillian is a multi-published author who lives in the middle of Ohio Amish country with her husband and a menagerie of pets. After more than 30 years working as a speech pathologist for children, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.

Her goal is to write stories that entertain but also demonstrate God’s love for all of us. To learn more about her, visit www.lillian-duncan.com. I also have a devotional blog at www.PowerUpWithGod.com.

Ten Ways to Bless Others Through Your Writing Skills

by Bonita Y. McCoy

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Like everyone else writers revolve around family, friends, and those commitments we make to our community. So, it’s no surprise that we want to give back to those we care about most. Sometimes, it can be hard to know what we can do.

So, I compiled a short list.

Here are ten ways a writer can give back to their family and community by using their God given talent to enhance other people’s lives.

Five Ways to Give Back to Family:

  • Interview a veteran in your family about his history or war experience and share it with the whole family through Wattpad or Amazon Kindle.
  • Map out the family tree and write snippets from each era or generation, making sure to include the family favorites that everyone knows and several that are unique.
  • Compile a family cookbook of favorite recipes and traditions. Ask each member for a favorite memory that revolves around food.
  • Create a book of family weddings and baby showers. Include lots of pictures and maybe some poems.
  • Write a family newsletter to send out at Christmas or New Year’s or Easter to keep friends and extended family in the loop with what’s going on in life.

Bonus:

  • Create a book of memories of someone who has passed to keep their wonderful stories alive.

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Five Ways to Give Back to Your Community:

  • Volunteer to teach a workshop on writing at the local Senior Citizen Center or after school program.
  • Help promote a local cause like a charity, non-profit, or animal shelter through your blog or start a blog for them.
  • Write an article or pamphlet to draw attention to medical issues that may not have a lot of media coverage in your area.
  • Write a newsletter for your subdivision, neighborhood, or church to help the group feel connected and informed.
  • Contribute to the local newspaper to highlight the humor in your own backyard.

As you can see, there are so many ways God can use our writing skills to benefit not only ourselves but our friends, families, and neighbors. [Click-to-Tweet]

Writing Prompt:

Jill heard about the problems her neighbors were having with drivers speeding through the subdivision, but as a writer, she wasn’t sure how she could help.

 

 

 

 

Writing for Children—A Noble Calling

By Michelle Medlock Adams

When I was in first grade, Mrs. True made an announcement that would forever change my life.

“We’re having a poetry contest this week,” she said, “so use today and tomorrow to come up with your best poem.”

We had just studied the various types of poems, and I decided I really liked the ones that rhymed. In fact, I had checked out every book of rhyming poetry I could find from our school library, and I’d read them all—twice.

As my classmates wrote about their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, I carefully crafted the words to my poem: “I Love Penny.”

Penny was my 7-year-old wiener dog and my best friend in the whole world.

My poem went a little something like this: “Penny is my very best friend. I’ll love her to the very end. She’s a very special wiener dog. I love her though she smells like a hog…”

OK, so I wasn’t exactly a first grade Dr. Seuss, but my poem was good enough to earn first prize. (I guess the other first grade poets must’ve been really bad.) At any rate, I won a few sparkly pencils and the honor of going first in the lunch line that afternoon.  Mrs. True also displayed my poem in the front of the room for all to see. I stared at my winning poem all afternoon, and in my mind, I was already coming up with a follow-up rhyme.

That’s the day I became a writer.

I wanted to write all the time, and so I did. I wrote during recess while other kids played tag and climbed on the monkey bars. I completely fell in love with words.

I wrote a play in fifth grade that we performed for all of the fifth grade classes; I wrote short stories in junior high for a literary magazine; and I wrote many articles for my high school newspaper before majoring in journalism at Indiana University.

Though I began my career writing news stories for a daily paper, my career path took an unexpected turn when we moved to Texas so I could write features and personality profiles for an international ministry magazine. After a little while, the editor came to me said, “You have kids, right?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“Great, you can write some kids stories for our children’s outreach.”

I remember thinking, “Just because I have kids doesn’t mean I know how to write for them.”

But I was a journalist so I began researching the world of writing for children, and I once again fell in love. Head over heels. That was more than 20 years ago, and I’ve been lovesick ever since. Creating stories for children—stories that teach, entertain, encourage and inspire—it’s a noble calling. It’s a calling I don’t take for granted, and neither should you.

No matter how you fell in love with writing for children, I’m just happy you did. Let me encourage you to stay the course. Never think your work or your words are less important or less powerful simply because they are for kids. Actually, they are more important and more powerful because they are for kids.

You’re a part of a very special club—a society of writers who woo children to fall in love with words and continue that love affair their whole lives through. You’re the writer who transports children to far-off lands and make-believe worlds. You’re the writer who causes children to dream a little bigger, laugh a little harder, feel a little deeper, and care a little more. You’re a children’s writer, crafting copy on the very hearts of your readers, so do it well, and do it with enthusiasm.

Click to tweet: “You’re the writer who causes children to dream a little bigger, laugh a little harder, feel a little deeper, and care a little more.” Michelle Medlock Adams. #amwriting #childrensbooks

Writing prompt: Do you write for children? Tell us why in the comments. We want to know!


Michelle Medlock Adams is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author, earning top honors from the Associated Press, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Hoosier State Press Association.

Author of over 80 books with close to 4 million books sold, Michelle’s latest children’s book, My First Da of School (Worthy Kids) won the Selah Award for Best Children’s Book in 2018, her fourth Selah for Best Children’s Book since 2012. In fact, in 2014 Michelle’s board book God Knows You not only won the Selah for Best Children’s Book but also won the esteemed Book of the Year honor over all other Selah winners.

In addition, her children’s book, I Will Not Be Afraid (Concordia Publishing House) earned “The Gold” Enduring Light medal for best children’s book in the 2018 Illumination Awards.

 Since graduating with a journalism degree from Indiana University, Michelle has written more than 1,500 articles for newspapers, magazines and websites; acted as a stringer for the Associated Press; written for a worldwide ministry; helped pen a New York Times Bestseller; hosted “Joy In Our Town” for the Trinity Broadcasting Network; and served as a blogger for Guideposts. Today, she is President of Platinum Literary Services—a premier full-service literary firm—and she serves as Chairman of the Serious Writer Board of Directors.

 When not working on her own assignments, Michelle ghostwrites books for celebrities, politicians, and some of today’s most effective and popular ministers. Michelle is also a much sought-after teacher at writers’ conferences and universities around the nation. In fact, she has served as an adjunct professor three different years at Taylor University, teaching “Writing for Children.”

 Michelle is married to her high school sweetheart, Jeff, and they have two daughters, Abby and Allyson, two sons-in-law, one grandson and another grandbaby on the way. She and Jeff share their home in Southern Indiana with a miniature dachshund, a rescue Shepherd/Collie mix, and two cats. When not writing or teaching writing, Michelle enjoys bass fishing and cheering on the Indiana University Basketball team, the Chicago Cubbies, and the LA King

3 Questions Wednesday with Daphne Self

67177558_10217230486728501_1529675924142817280_oWelcome to another edition of 3 Questions Wednesday, and welcome Daphne Self. Lets get started!

First question:

Who is your favorite author?

Daphne:  This is like asking what’s my favorite show, or dessert, or kid. I have many favorites so I will list a few: for suspense: Terri Blackstock, for westerns: Louis L’Amour, for thrillers: Eric Landfried and Mike Dellosso, for speculative: Daniel Peyton, Allen Steadham, Joanna White, Paul Regnier, and John Olson/Randy Ingermanson…and that is just a start. Oh, I love Henry van Dyke.

It is too hard to pick one with so many favorites! 🙂 Now here’s a fun question—

 If you could write about anyone or anything fiction/nonfiction who or what would you write about? 

Daphne:   I’m working on writing a middle grade book about Martin Luther. This requires a lot of researching, but I like it. When it comes to fiction, I write about a variety of things. So I really can’t pinpoint anything. Guess you can say when it comes to fiction, I write about life. With nonfiction, I would write a book that goes into more detail about living with chronic pain and tell the stories of everyday people who live with this condition.

It seems like so many people are struggling with chronic pain and how to manage it in a healthy way.  That book could have the potential to help many people.  Last question—

If you could spend time with a character from your book or another book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?

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Daphne:  This is kind of hard to say. I don’t really live in books. I enjoy reading them, but once I close the book, the story lives in my memory only. If I had to say, it would be … I have no idea. Maybe Jordan and Bopol from Allen Steadham’s Jordan’s World. I would learn the way of the tribes on Algoran. Of Beroan from Shifter by Joanna White. To be able to see him in dragon form would be cool and he could tell me all about the dragon clan. Maybe even Doyle from Eric Landfried’s Solitary Man. We would fight to undercover the truth of what why the cannibals existed. Then there is Penny and Jonah from Susan Tuttle’s At First Glance. To spend a day with a sweet couple would be ideal. Being able to talk to Tassie from Judy DuCharme’s Blood Moon Redemption would be nice. I would have coffee with her and discuss the significance of her heritage and history. If I was able to spend time with Travis and Jane in Lucy Thompson’s A Cowboy’s Dare, it would be like living in a John Wayne movie. Laughter, adventure, and mayhem.

You may need a year instead of a day…LOL!   Thanks, Daphne, for visiting us on 3 Questions Wednesday, and allowing our readers to know you better.

Click to Tweet: Author Daphne Self answers our 3 Questions and you could win a copy of of three books. @InspiredPrompt   #Interview #giveaway #DaphneSelf

Readers, Daphne will give away 3 print copies of Mississippi Nights, in celebration of Alabama Days‘ release in spring/summer 2020, 30 Days: A Devotional Memoir, in celebration of next year’s release of Journey On: Through This Shadowed Valley, and The Case of the Missing Firehouse Dog, her newest children’s book release.  Don’t forget to comment below to be entered.


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The Case of the Missing Firehouse Dog

Majesty, the firehouse dog, is missing. Willie and Jax are on the case to discover who is the dognapping culprit. Could it be their neighbor, Mr. Applebee? Or maybe it is Ms. Thornton?
Join the Pintail Duo, Wilhelmina van der Coup and Jackson Barnaby, as they follow the clues to rescue Majesty in The Case of the Missing Firehouse Dog.


 


Mississippi Nights

MN_Cover_FINALTwo brothers, one death–the bond of brotherhood faces its greatest challenge against resentment and guilt.
Can the love between two brothers eventually win against pain and guilt? When firefighter David Boyette’s fiance perishes in a car fire, he blames his brother, Sgt. Jeremy Boyette, for her death.
Three years later, David returns home with a dark and devastating secret. With the help of family, a woman’s love, and a small child’s devotion, can David overcome insurmountable odds as he and Jeremy face the bitterness that enslaves him?
Together the brothers must decide if the bond of brotherhood is stronger than resentment and hate.

 


30 Days: A Devotional Memoir 

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Do you desire to no longer be alone? Do you yearn for understanding and hope? Do you wish for a closer walk with Jesus?
When a relationship ends, whether through divorce or death, it leaves us with heartache and sadness. Fear of loneliness overwhelms our soul. Anger at God consumes us. We are suddenly thrust into unknown territory, lost and bewildered.
Psalm 147:3 “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their their wounds”. 30 Days: A Devotional Memoir brings you deeply moving stories to strengthen your walk and bring you closer to Christ. Author D.M. Webb share her three year spiritual journey with a collection of thirty devotions designed to reach out and uplift those who have endured the turbulent emotions that come with divorce, widowhood, and single parenting. Reach out, place your hand in His, and begin your journey today.

 



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Daphne Self, formerly published under the name D.M. Webb, resides in Iowa. A transplant from Mississippi who fell in love with the Midwest state, she spends her days writing, editing, and planning adventures with her husband and sons. Having always dreamed of being a writer she pursues this dream with only one goal in mind: To Glorify His Name. Daphne is also an avid reader who devours books in many genres. Daphne is a long time member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and also helps upcoming authors polish their manuscripts.

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