3 Questions Wednesday with Jennifer Hallmark

IMG_6336-300Today’s 3 Questions Wednesday guest is Writing Prompts’  founder and editor-in-chief, Jennifer Hallmark.

Welcome to 3 Questions, Jennifer. You know the drill–

What books have fortified you as a writer? How?

Jennifer: Right now, three books are my go-to reads. These are not so much craft books as they are encouragement for writers.

First, like Edie Melson said last week, I love James Scott Bell’s book, The Art of War for Writers.  When I am discouraged and want to quit for the hundredth time, I flip it open and remind myself that it’s not easy but it’s what I want to do. I read it at least once a  year.

Next is The Audacity to be a Writer compiled by Bryan Hutchinson. It’s a collection of 50 articles from his blog, Positive Writer, and others. It’s refreshing and inspiring.

The third book is one that helped me as much as any I’ve ever read. Unleash the Writer Within by Cecil Murphy changed the way I looked at writing. It gave me permission to go to that elusive next level by learning that being myself when I write is not only okay but essential.

Wow, those all sound like must-reads. I agree that we writers need positive encouragement and inspiration to keep the creative fires burning. Next question:

What secret talents do you have?

Jennifer: Art in all forms. I actually attended college to major in art. I love cartooning, all types of needlework, and cake decorating. Being creative in artsy ways is very relaxing for me. 🙂

I have always admired artists and their beautiful creations.  How blessed you are to have that gift! I can join you only in cake decorating–that’s as artistic as I can get. And speaking of that…

If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?

Jennifer: I’d make sure my husband, Danny, was off work so he could grill for you: chicken, thick pork chops, or a T-bone steak. I’d boil some fresh potatoes from the garden and fry squash and green tomatoes. Oh, and don’t forget the black-eyed peas. Add in a pan of cornbread and sweet tea and we’ll have a feast, southern-style. For dessert, I’d make a blackberry or peach cobbler, depending which you’d rather have. You can go here for my simple recipe. And top it off with homemade vanilla ice cream.

What time is dinner served? Count me in for that southern feast–my mouth’s already watering.  And I vote for peach cobbler, please. Sounds delicious!

Jennifer is offering a $10 Amazon gift card to one blessed person who leaves a comment. That way, you can buy plenty of books for summer reading…

Not AloneNot Alone: A Literary and Spiritual Companion for Those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage

Our society understands how terrible the loss of a child is when that child is out of the womb, but what about when a child dies before birth? Or what about the emptiness that comes when a very-much-wanted child is never even conceived?

These quiet, private losses are hard for those who have not experienced them to understand. And these losses leave those who have suffered them feeling alone in their grief.

Not Alone: A Literary and Spiritual Companion for Those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage is a resource both for those who have suffered through these experiences and for their friends and relatives, who want to understand what their loved ones are going through.

This collection contains true stories that are:

  • sensitive, and yet honest
  • angry and raw, but not despairing
  • unique, and yet relatable

The contributors to this book are male and female, old and young, some who eventually had children and some who never did, and yet despite their differences, they share a common grief and a common faith.

No experience of miscarriage, infant loss, or infertility is like any other, yet by reading these painful and hope-filled stories, you’ll be comforted by knowing there are others who understand the journey you’re on, the loss you’ve suffered, and you will find that even though your loss is uniquely yours, you are not alone.

Jennifer HallmarkJennifer Hallmark is a writer of Southern fiction and also fantasy; a combination that keeps the creative juices flowing. She’s published over 200 articles and interviews on the internet, short stories in several magazines, and been part of four book compilations: A Dozen Apologies, Sweet Freedom A La Mode, Unlikely Merger, and Not Alone: A Literary and Spiritual Companion for Those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage.

When she’s not working in the garden or keeping the grandkids, you can find her at:







Tying the Knot in Style


By Karen Jurgens

For our last June post about weddings, we would like to treat you, our readers, to a “fashion show,” both in-house and around the world. There is no clothing more magnificent nor a woman more beautiful than on her wedding day.

In America, we are firmly steeped in our own wedding-style traditions, but have you considered those in other parts of the world? If you think that all brides wear flowing white dresses with veils, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

Let’s travel first to Thailand. This bride’s ornate gown and headdress is amazing.

Thai Bridal Gown

Thai Bridal Gown

The Indian bride wears a beautifully colorful saree along with other traditional apparel.

Married in India

A wedded couple in India

Notice how the bride’s hands are intricately decorated with ink designs.

Holding Hands at an Indian Wedding Ceremony

Holding Hands at an Indian Wedding Ceremony

Chinese tradition wraps her brides in yet a different style. Notice the interesting headdress.

A Chinese Bride and Groom

A Chinese Bride and Groom

Now, let’s journey to Sri Lanka where Anusha Atukorala is a lovely bride decked out in her white bridal saree, also pictured with her bridesmaids.

Anusha, a Sri Lankan bride with her groom

Anusha Atukorala, a Sri Lankan bride with her groom

Anusha with her bridesmaids

Anusha with her bridesmaids

Her going-away attire is a beautiful blue saree. Don’t they make a handsome couple?

Anusha in her going-away attire

Anusha in her going-away attire

Next is a traditional Nigerian wedding dress, courtesy of our own Crew Member, Harriet Michael. Born in Nigeria to missionary parents who later adopted Abel, she shared this photo of her brother with his beautiful bride, Abike. Notice the bold colors and the headdress of this happy couple.

A Nigerian Bride and Groom

Abel, adopted Nigerian brother of Harriet Michael, on his wedding day with his bride Abike

Moving on to American tradition, we have Paula Beem on her special day with her good-looking groom.

An American Bride and Groom

Paula on her wedding day with her groom

Stunning in her beaded gown, she tells me that her mother designed it based on several different dresses that Paula liked at the time. Most amazing is that her mother, a babysitter for four young children, sewed the seed pearl beads on the lace bodice while the children napped. What a labor of love!

Finally, as a re-cap of the entire month, here come some of our Writing Prompts Crew Members down the aisle (in addition to our Carlton waiting for his bride at the altar).

Let’s begin with our founder and editor-in-chief, Jennifer Dison Hallmark, looking absolutely beautiful on her wedding day.

Jennifer Hallmark with her groom

Jennifer Hallmark with her groom

Next is our co-leader, editor and technology expert, Betty Thomason Owens, decked out in her gorgeous dress. What a lovely bride!

Betty Owen on her wedding day

Betty Owen on her wedding day

Here comes Harriet Michael down the aisle. Her mother, a talented seamstress, created and made her beautiful gown. Stunning, don’t you agree?

Harriet Michael on her wedding day

Harriet Michael on her wedding day

Robin Elizabeth Mason has chosen a dreamy wedding dress, but she also loves the antique Celtic style. Which is the prettier? I think she will look amazing in either one!

Maggie Sotero - Libby - front and back

Robin’s Dream Gown

Ancient Celtic Wedding Gown

Dreaming of an ancient Celtic wedding gown

Anne Evans’s off-the-shoulder attire looks gorgeous on her, too. What fun her wedding day must have been!

Anne Evans' wedding day

Anne Evans’ wedding day

Anne Evans' wedding day

Anne Evans’ wedding day

Tammy Trail is a knock-out in her billowy dress. Here’s a toast to a beautiful bride on her special day!

Tammy Trail's wedding day

Tammy Trail’s wedding day

Carlton Hughes was blessed with his beautiful bride on their wedding day. What a handsome couple they are.

Wedding Day - Carlton Hughes

Wedding Day – Carlton Hughes

And finally, here I am on my wedding day, at home with my parents.

Karen Jurgens at home with her parents on her wedding day

Karen Jurgens with her parents on her wedding day

Karen Jurgens Bride

Karen Jurgens

Thanks for walking down memory lane with us here at Writing Prompts this month. It has been a delightful wedding journey—and all the more special because you joined us.





Writing Prompt: What style was your dress on your wedding day? You may also include a photo to share with us.

The Saddle Maker’s Son by Kelly Irvin

KellyNewHeadShotToday we welcome Kelly Irvin with her latest release, The Saddle Maker’s Son.

Hello, Kelly! How long have you been writing?

Kelly: All my life, it seems. I wrote poems, plays, and short stories growing up. Then I went to college and became a journalist so I wrote nonfiction for a living. It was all-consuming so I put my dreams of writing fiction on hold. I married my husband and we had two children. One day I woke up and realized I’d turned forty-five. My dream of being a published novelist was slipping away. It took seven years to publish my first novel, but my dream did come true! Now that I’m retired, I’m writing full-time and loving it.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

Kelly: My agent, Mary Sue Seymour, encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and try something new. I was hesitant at first, but then I realized I’d found a place where I felt at home. I grew up in a small, rural community. My parents had a huge vegetable garden. My mom canned everything. She sewed our clothes on a treadle sewing machine. She taught us to make homemade bread and desserts. We had no phone—not for religious reasons, but for economic ones. I had all this experience and knowledge that helps me step into writing the scenes in Amish fiction. I’m challenged by what the Amish believe and how they live their beliefs. I’m challenged to examine my own beliefs and whether I live them. I hope my readers are as well.

What are some of the references you used while researching your book?

Kelly: I interviewed a saddle maker who used to be a working cowboy on a ranch. That was a lot of fun. I also did a great deal of on-line research for newspaper and magazine articles about the influx of young, unaccompanied children into the United States via the Texas-Mexico border. A Spanish-English dictionary came in very handy, and of course, my standard resources, Amish Society, by John A. Hostetler, and The Amish, by Donald B. Kraybill, Karen M. Johnson-Weiner, and Steven M. Nolt.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Kelly: I loved Lupe and Diego, my little ones from El Salvador. Having the mix of the Plain families with these two, who shook up their lives and stretched their cultural understanding. I loved doing the research into what toys they might have and what foods they would miss. It was fun writing a story that is very different from what you might typically expect in an Amish romance in terms of setting, characters, and even some of the language. I found myself stretched as a writer as well.

What do your plans for future projects include?

Kelly: I recently completed the first book in a four-book series for Zondervan. It is entitled On a Spring Breeze. It’s so completely different than the Amish of Bee County series set in south Texas. Changing things up really keeps me on my toes! I also have two novellas coming out next year as part of Thomas Nelson anthologies. Lots to do!

It sure sounds like it. Thanks so much, Kelly, for dropping by!

Kelly has graciously offered a print copy of The Saddle Maker’s Son to one person who leaves a comment below. 🙂

KellyNewHeadShotKelly Irvin, a Kansas native, is a graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism and multi-published author. She has been writing nonfiction professionally for more than thirty years, including ten years as a newspaper reporter. She recently retired after working 22 years in public relations for the City of San Antonio. Kelly is married to photographer Tim Irvin. They have two young adult children, two grandchildren and two ornery cats. In her spare time, she likes to write short stories and read books by her favorite authors.

Saddle Maker FinalThe Saddle Maker’s Son

Rebekah Lantz feels imprisoned by circumstances she didn’t create. Tobias Byler is haunted by regret. Can two young runaways from half a world away teach them the healing power of true family?

Rebekah isn’t like her sister, but the watchful gaze of her family and small, close knit Amish community makes her feel as if she’s been judged and found lacking. The men avoid her and the women whisper behind her back. She simply longs for the same chance to be a wife and mother that her friends have.

Tobias Byler only wants to escape feelings for a woman he knows he should never have allowed to get close to him. Moving with his family to isolated Bee County, Texas, seemed the best way to leave his mistakes behind. But even a move across the country can’t erase the past that accompanies his every thought.

A surprise encounter with two half-starved runaway children forces both Rebekah and Tobias to turn to each other to help a sister and brother who have traveled thousands of miles in search of lives of unfettered peace and joy.

In doing so, Rebekah and Tobias discover the key to forgetting the past is the one that will open the door to love and the future they both seek.

The Wedding Cake

By Betty Boyd

wedding bouquet

The wedding cake is a special tradition that is as individual as the bride. This tradition goes back to ancient Rome, where the cake was broken over the bride’s head as a sign of good fortune. In Medieval England, the cakes were stacked as high as possible for the bride and groom to kiss over.

Wedding cakes have been around for centuries. According to Wikipedia, “The wedding cake was originally known as the bride’s cake therefore the color white became common, because the cake needed to reflect the bride. The cutting of the cake is a task full of symbolism. The cake was originally intended to be distributed among the guests by only the bride because consuming the cake would ensure fertility.

cake-590774_1280As weddings grew and the number of guests increased, this task became a joint venture, the groom needed to help cut the growing cake and distribute it among their guests. Layers of cakes began to pile up and the icing would need to support the weight of the cake making is very difficult for one person to cut. The groom would assist the bride in this process. Once this tradition began the bride and groom would share a piece of cake before distributing it to the guests to symbolize their union and their promise to forever provide for each other.”

For me the best part of the wedding is the cake. It’s fun to see what type and kind of cake ends up at the reception. Since they can be so diverse, it adds a special quality to the bride’s day. I like when the groom smashes the cake in the bride’s face, this makes for a great photographic and fun memory.

wedding-1236024_1280The wedding cake will be a tradition that will keeping changing, but will always be a unique and fun experience for all.

What is the most unusual wedding cake that you have ever experienced?

Writing Prompt: Can you write a story with these four words:

  • Cake
  • Groom
  • Bride
  • Tradition


3 Questions Wednesday with Edie Melson

Edie MelsonPlease welcome Edie Melson—author, speaker and blogger—a leading professional within the writing industry–to 3 Questions Wednesday.  Her popular blog for writers, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month.

So how did she answer our 3 Questions? Read on–

What books have fortified you as a writer? How?

Edie: There are so many great books out there, it’s really hard to choose just three. But for me, the first one is easy, the Bible. I know, I’m a Christian who’s a writer so I’m supposed to say that, but reasons go deeper than you may think.

First, the Bible is great literature. By that I mean it’s well-written, compelling, inspiring, and has stood the test of time. In it I find examples of how to tell compelling stories (fiction) how to inspire and encourage my readers (non-fiction) even write poetry. Everything we need is in this one single volume.

Second, it’s almost always grammatically correct. Yes, there are some comma issues, but hey, no one agrees on those rules. What I’m talking about is the hard stuff, like how to use lay and lie, and when to use who and when to use whom. Every example I need is at my fingertips.

Third, and most important, it’s my inspiration. When I doubt my calling, the words from God are right there. When I struggle with discipline, the kick-in-the-pants I need is staring me in my face. It’s a personal letter of why I write, to whom I’m writing, and for Whom I’m writing.

The second book I’d choose is anything every written from James Scott Bell. I am such a fan-girl when it comes to his books on craft. I love his short ebooks and his others. But the one I like best is the Art of War for Writers. There is just so much knowledge, inspiration, and practical help that I find myself returning to it again and again.

The third book is a new one, Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules by Steven James. After seven nonfiction books, my first novel comes out later this year and this book has been my foundation as I’ve made it the best it can be. Also, he has a new book on writing coming out soon and I’m sure it will join my favorite’s shelf.

Great choices! And I can’t wait to read your debut novel…

What secret talents do you have?

Edie: For years, I’ve been a professional-level crafter. I actually began my publishing career as an instruction writer for the craft book company, Leisure Arts, Inc.. I was featured as a needlepoint and cross stitch designer in a five-page spread in McCalls magazine in 1994. I’ve won awards for my quilts, and I’m a master-level lace tatting instructor.

Wow. I’m impressed. 🙂 Last question:

If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?

Edie: I love to cook and entertain, although my dinner parties tend to take place on my back screened-in porch, lit with twinkle lights and candles. My focus is on fun and visiting, rather than silver and china. The thing I love to cook the most is Tex-Mex. I grew up in Texas, and I love to show off the recipes I’ve developed myself. I’d start with homemade guacamole, move on to a black bean side dish, add fresh grilled veggies. Then, for the main entre, I’d serve my own special beef and chicken enchiladas. We’d finish up simple, with brownies and ice cream. Nothing fancy, but we’d laugh a lot, share stories, and get to know each other better.

I’m a Chinet girl myself. Bring on the guacamole…

Edie has graciously offered an autographed copy of While My Child Is Away to one person who leaves a comment. It could be you…

While My Child is Away CoverWhile My Child Is Away: My Prayers For When We are Apart

Parents and children are separated for many reasons: divorce, school, camp, even work. It might be for just a few days or indefinitely. These prayers give voice to all that you are hoping for your child when you can t be the one to meet their needs. Prayers of blessings, protection, instruction and grace. Or prayers for those around your child to choose wisely, see their needs, and love them as you would. Prayers for friends, teachers, coaches and mentors to step in and fill every need. Knowing that a loving Father God is caring for your child, even when you can’t, gives you the peace and assurance that all will be well.

Edie MelsonEdie Melson—author, blogger, speaker—has written numerous books, including her upcoming book, While My Child is Away, Prayers for When We’re Apart. This is the next in the prayer series after While My Soldier Serves, Prayers for Those with Loved Ones in the Military. She’s also the military family blogger at Guideposts.org.

Her popular blog for writers, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month, and she’s the director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Connections: Social Media & Networking Techniques for Writers is a print expansion of her bestselling ebook on social media. She’s the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy, the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine, and the Senior Editor for NovelRocket.com. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.