Hidden in a List by Marlene Houk

writing picture Marlene HoukGood morning, dear reader! Thank you for joining us on this lovely Saturday. We have Marlene Houk with us this morning. Marlene is talking about the writing process and her new book, Hidden in a List

Marlene, tell us a little about yourself.

Marlene: I’m a woman of faith, wife, mother, grandmother and many other roles. My career was in accounting and I’m now semi-retired with writing and consulting vying for my time. Sid, my husband, and I have enjoyed and stumbled through bringing up two grown and flown children, but my daughter is close and serves as my personal guru of technology, encouragement, and critique in this writing journey. 😊 I enjoy snowtubing, soapmaking and visiting Ireland.

What do you love most about the writing process?

Marlene: I heard someone say at a writers’ conference, “I dance with words.” God gifted us with the ability to waltz to the rhythm of words and gave us language. He even called his beloved Son, the Word. The Bible fascinates me with its structure, patterns, and implications. And God, the Master Storyteller’s methods work because he created us to respond to Jesus. I love to copy those same methods in my writing.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Marlene:  Too many. One unpublished book and about eight half-finished books wait patiently for me.

If you could give advice to your younger writing self, what would it be?

Marlene:  Two pieces of advice rise to the top.

  1. Learn from the Master Writer: the Lord. His ways are best, and he created us to have the same emotions, needs, and pleasures as the rest of humanity. These ways help us to understand the Bible. Capitalize on that and learn his methods which are stories, questions, the senses, word pictures, figures of speech, patterns, etc.
  2. Write. Because I’m a backslidden perfectionist, training myself to write rather than waiting for the perfect moment and inspiration is difficult.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Marlene:  In the big picture sense, the traps are the same as elsewhere in life. Our strengths (For example, I strive for excellence but drift into perfectionism.) are our weaknesses. When the Bible says, “the wisdom of the prudent is to know his way,” (Proverbs 14:8), it means writing too. If we know our strengths, then we know our weaknesses. When we see our personalities mirrored in many others’ reactions to us, then we know our way. And to excel at our careers supports our writing.

We have the same foibles everyone falls in to. For example:

  • I somehow think that writing is a luxury, and, like a nap, put it off until I deserve it. But writing is an accountability for the gifts and the truths that we discover. They should be a light set on a hill rather than under a bushel. (Matthew 5:15)
  • The craft of writing takes time, and I want to purchase the book and consider it done.
  • And, like most people, my creations are my babies, not to be critiqued.

The traps are the same as experienced writers.

What does literary success look like to you?

Marlene: Literary success would fulfill my desires when people receive my work and grow spiritually from it.

Future projects or WIP you can talk about?

Marlene:  My current WIP is a Bible study whose working title is Divine Drama: transforming patterns in the lives of Bible women. It won first place for Bible study at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (BRMCWC). Based on easily-observed patterns in their stories, we can absorb divine truth that changes how we view life.

When this one is published, there are about 7 others in various stages of completion that follow this pattern. And there’s an infinite number of other possibilities when studying women of the Bible.

Thank you for joining us today, Marlene!


writing picture Marlene Houk

Marlene Houk writes a series of Bible studies that connect ancient women to us, conveying messages of hope, faith, and warning. She has recently published a short-read on Amazon Kindle called, Hidden in a List: secrets from Bible women

Marlene is passionate about finding the Master Director’s heart prints in the women he has positioned in his Word. And she loves to ask unusual questions such as, “What one word did Eve omit in her conversation with the devil?”

She writes for the Blue Ridge Christian News and contributes to the Short & Sweet Series published by Grace Publishing, compiled by Susan King. She also encourages women through her teaching and speaking ministry. Her Bible study, Backstage Pass to Emotion Commotion, won first place at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.

  Marlene is a graduate of Covington Theological Seminary with a degree in Ministry and Gardner-Webb University with a degree in Business Administration. Learn more about the fascinating world of Bible women at www.MarleneHouk.com.

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Maglenes_Hidden in a ListDo you have a plan when life kicks you to the curb in its daily grind and when disaster strikes? Imagine relying on simple, doable, Scripture-based steps to realign your emotions with God’s Word. In this short read, you can:

  • Unlock proven secrets to control reactions and instead act from a God-given perspective.
  • Triumph in the knowledge of Jesus Christ as he overcomes fears and failures.
  • Delight for a lifetime in using these secrets and sharing them with others.
  • Conquer insecurities by following the women of the Bible.
  • Boldly increase your faith and hope as a daily part of life.

Choosing a Freelance Editor

By Fay Lamb

Hiring a freelance editor may be one of the most important decisions you make in your career, but there are precautions you should take in order to find the editor most suited to your needs.

First, I want to say that the most effective use of a freelance editor is not to rewrite or to revise an author’s work but to catch the mistakes that might have been made or the areas that might have missed because the author is too close to the work.

Now, with regard to the qualifications of an editor, I do not believe that an editor needs to have a degree, but I do believe that they need to have studied the craft of writing and have the ability to show forth a knowledge of the specific area in which they are being requested to offer an edit.

Editors who claim to be able to edit everything should be viewed skeptically. For instance, if I were writing a college thesis on a highly specialized field, I would search for an editor familiar with that field of research, not an editor who would simply look for comma placement or spelling. In fact, I’d be worried that the spelling would be a problem for someone unfamiliar with the subject.

Let’s bring it down to our scope, though. In fiction, there are genres, and each genre requires specific techniques. Thrillers are fast paced, barely leaving time for the reader to breathe while romantic suspense will speed up and slow down depending upon the type of suspense being portrayed. Romance, well, it lingers, but it is often formulaic, and an editor will need to know the formula. Historical fiction is another beast altogether, and nothing can be taken for granted, even word choice. I know, historical fiction is not my expertise.

Overall, though, fiction has elements such as plot, conflict, suspense, proper use of dialogue, showing and not telling, deep point of view, and characterization. An editor who is unaware of this canvas upon which an author creates can do little to help the author should the brush stroke be imperfect.

There’s also non-fiction. In fact, this editor will only edit non-fiction if the author is requesting proofreading and nothing more. Why? I do not have the expertise in this format either, and my lack of knowledge will harm an author.

Another important thing to know when it comes to hiring a freelance editor is the going rate, and many authors will be surprised at what it will cost because most freelance editors don’t care about the author’s return on investment. They’re rightfully concerned with their return on investment. Thus my reason for stating why an editor should not be used to revise or rewrite.

Before agreeing to a contract with a freelance editor, an author should ask for a free chapter edit. This will be of benefit not only to the author but to the editor. As a freelance editor, I often use those free edits to determine if the author is ready for publication. If not, I will refuse the edit and will offer suggestions on how they might improve their writing. If I find that the author has a command of the story, I am then able to determine the length of the manuscript and offer my estimate, which is always the highest fee I will charge, and sometimes if the edits take less effort, I charge less.

This leads me to the most important advice that I can give to an author seeking a freelance editor: never agree to an open-ended hourly contract. An editor who has given you a chapter edit may estimate high in case the story falls apart somewhere along the line, but agree up front to the total cost and to the terms of payment. If an editor is unwilling to provide the cost up front, run away.

Again, it is important to note, in order to utilize the freelance editor’s time and the money you pay most effectively, send the editor your cleanest manuscript. Utilize an editor’s expertise to find the mistakes you missed and not to clean up the mistakes you didn’t want to remedy.

Click to tweet: Choosing a Freelance Editor by Fay Lamb. “Editors who claim to be able to edit everything should be viewed skeptically.” #editing #amwriting

Writing Prompt: In leiu of a prompt, tell us whether you use a critique group, a critique partner, or hire a freelance editor? Why?

Why Delilah?

By Fay Lamb

When Delilah came on the scene as the ruthless antagonist for Charisse in the first book of the series, a reader wrote to me before finishing the story and said, “I hope Delilah gets hers.” I replied that she definitely did, but it would not be in the way that she thought.” Since the release of Charisse, I heard from many readers who fell in love with Delilah, this delightfully fiendish character who changed in some ways from story to story but never truly lost her brash personality that made her who she is.

I never meant to give Dee her own story, but like many of the characters I write, I find that those that I consider truly secondary are the ones that seem to capture the imagination of the readers. I have a character in a little-known book that I wrote in 1999 that my readers still ask me about today, and characters in a writing tutorial that I used as examples have an adoring audience. The same was true of Delilah. When I sent the synopses in for Charisse, Libby, and Hope, the stories which at that time, encompassed the series, the publisher indicated I could have the contract on one condition: if Delilah got a story of her own. Who was I to argue?

As I completed the other two novels in the series and five other novels in different series for the same publisher, I worked on Delilah in my mind. She wouldn’t let me alone, and she never ceased to amaze me with her story. When she told me her background, I laughed aloud. When she learned her connection to one of the other gals in the series, I cried and I rejoiced with her. Delilah truly had me on a roller coaster ride of emotions, and I couldn’t wait to sit down and tell her unique tale set against the backdrop of Central Florida’s homelessness and our wonderful natural resources. It is truly my hope that you’ll come along for the ride.

Find Delilah here.

Click to tweet: Fay Lamb’s last book in The Ties That Bind series, Delilah. Great contemporary romance. #romance #amreading


Fay Lamb is the only daughter of a rebel genius father and a hard-working, tow-the-line mom. She is not only a fifth-generation Floridian, she has lived her life in Titusville, where her grandmother was born in 1899.

Since an early age, storytelling has been Fay’s greatest desire. She seeks to create memorable characters that touch her readers’ hearts. She says of her writing, “If I can’t laugh or cry at the words written on the pages of my manuscript, the story is not ready for the reader.” Fay writes in various genres, including romance, romantic suspense, and contemporary fiction.

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The Case of the Missing Firehouse Dog by Daphne Self

Good morning, dear reader! Thank you for joining us on this lovely Saturday. We have Daphne Self with us this morning. Daphne is talking about the writing process and her new book, The Case of the Missing Firehouse Dog.

Daphne, tell us a little about yourself.

Daphne: I was formerly published under the name D.M. Webb and have 3 books under that name. When I remarried in 2012 after being a widow for seven years, I decided that I wanted to be published under my married name. Another little tidbit about me is that I lived the majority of my life in Mississippi, but in 2014, we moved to the eastern part of Iowa, right outside of Cedar Rapids. Will we stay here? Who knows. We go where God leads us. The one major change we have to deal with is the brutal winters!

What more can I say about me? I’m one of those introverts who cannot be put in a tidy box. I’m a sci-fi geek, but love romance. I’m a devout reader of thrillers, but need that cozy mystery for balance. I like British lit and classics, but abhor To Kill a Mockingbird. I play video games and have an extensive Monopoly collection. I can quilt, paint, and grow some plants, but I can’t knit or crotchet.

What do you love most about the writing process?

Daphne: What do I love most? Kind of a hard question to answer. I love writing. I enjoy the images that words can create, but I would have to say what I love most is taking that germ of an idea and creating a world with it.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Daphne: Quite a few! I have 3 unfinished novels. One unfinished novella and one unfinished nonfiction. Plus, I started the next children’s book. Unpublished? Two children’s stories have not found a home yet, but I haven’t been actively seeking one for them…not yet, at least.

If you could give advice to your younger writing self, what would it be?

Daphne:  Don’t give up. It may take a while, but everything comes to pass in God’s time. He alone knows when the best time is for you. So don’t give up hope and don’t stop writing.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Daphne: Listening to the rules and not listening to the rules. Believing that what another author says is etched in stone. The market changes and our writing will also change. Plus, our writing changes with each book we write. So listen to the market, but don’t pay attention to the market or it will affect your writing and make it boring. Listen to the “rules” and advice of others, but don’t treat them like a golden standard. Your voice is key to the story. Many authors allow their voice to be diluted. Listen to editors, but do your homework on those editors. Don’t isolate yourself. Find a community. There are many authors to connect with through social media. If you don’t have that support, you can’t succeed.

What does literary success look like to you?

Daphne: Having one smile on a reader’s face is success. Success isn’t defined by money or by hitting a bestseller’s list. Success is defined by bringing glory to Jesus through a story I have written.

Future projects or WIP you can talk about?

Daphne: I am working on the next The Adventures of Wilhelmina book titled: The Case of the Vanishing Teddy Bear. In this one, a new character will be introduced. There is also my next novel, Alabama Days, which is to be released either later this year or early next year. The date has yet to be determined. And it is my hope to have my nonfiction book released next September, which is National Pain Awareness Month. This nonfiction book, titled Journey On, will chronicle the daily ups and downs of being newly diagnosed with a chronic illness, in this case fibromyalgia. With this book I hope to bring awareness to how broad chronic pain can be and how it affects one’s life.

Thank you for joining us today, Daphne!


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, hiking, antiquing, 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. As a long-time member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), she volunteers her time judging contests for unpublished and published authors. She also helps upcoming authors polish their manuscripts.


Beautiful Majesty has been dognapped!
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.

Christian Devotions: The Birthing of a Ministry

By Cindy K. Sproles
Acquisitions Editor
Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

Christian Devotions Ministries was born in August of 2008. We became a 501c3 shortly after our inception. God called two friends together to make this ministry happen and it came about like this:

Eddie Jones and I met at Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference and it was there we both sat across the table from editors and publishers handing out the same responses. No experience. Not only us, but many others new to the industry simply didn’t have the experience necessary to rise to publication at that time. We were good with that, understanding that new writers have to learn to write before they can become published so our prayer became, “Lord will you allow us to provide the opportunity for new writers to gain their first publication credit? Will you help us build a reputation of goodness, kindness, and willingness to teach others? Will you groom our writing so that we might be able to share your word to the world? And finally, will you grant us the opportunity to get to know publishers, agents, and editors so that we might gain the platform necessary to be able to offer this to others?”

I’m not sure why we were surprised, but God did answer yes to all our requests and www.ChristianDevotions.us was born. Currently, we publish devotions daily year round. Our goal is to help new writers gain that first publication credit and have it mean something in the industry. We work to mentor writers as they send us submissions, grooming them to write a touching and impactful devotion that can be used on the website and distributed worldwide.

Christian Devotions now is home to over 800 authors, many who continue to submit to the site as well as a continual flow of new, unpublished authors on a daily basis. We are blessed God saw the potential in us and this work to bless us. The daily devotional ministry reaches some 171 countries and emails over 20K emails weekly to our subscriber list. Folks and receive the devotions free of charge by going to the site and signing up in the email box. Christian Devotions holds the Asheville Christian Writers Conference each February at the Cove, the Billy Graham Training Center, in Asheville, NC with an amazing faculty each year. We welcome all writers to the conference and offer tracks for both new and seasoned writers. www.ashevillechristianwritersconference.com

Christian Devotions also has www.DevoKids.com – our site for homeschooling families as well as children from 5-10 years old.  Then for adults who are looking for a place of encouragement, we offer InspireAFire.com.

Next to ChristianDevotions.us comes our blog talk radio show www.christiandevotionsspeakup.com hosted by Scott McCausey. Visit the Speak Up site and listen to hundreds of amazing interviews from theologians, sports figures, Christian music artists, and even actors. Scott talks with them all about the impact God has had in their lives.All that to say, Christian Devotions Ministries is well rounded. We have something for everyone.

God has blessed us by growing the ministry of Christian Devotions greater than we ever imagined, but then our God is greater than we can imagine anyway. For those who want to submit to ChristianDevotions.us, visit our site at www.christiandevotions.us, click on the tab that says Write for Us, and download our guidelines and the sample devotions that teach you how we write devotions for the website. You may submit to christiandevotionsministries@gmail.com. Our Managing Editor is Martin Wiles.

Visit us at any of our sites. Invite us to your conference. Spread the word about the daily devotions and help us make a greater impact on a hurting world.


Cindy K. Sproles  is an author and speaker. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries and the cowriter of the popular He Said, She Said Devotions written with her cofounder, Eddie Jones. She is a novelist and best-selling author. Cindy’s devotions and articles are published in Christian newspapers across the eastern seaboard, including having been used to represent legislature for protection of the elderly. She is a speaker to women’s conferences addressing not only the heart of women, but also their biblical responsibilities to their families.

As a teacher and speaker for Christian Writers Conferences, Cindy teaches writing skills and how to write placing God in the forefront.  She is a contributing author to CBN.com and is the Executive Editor for www.christiandevotions.us and the Managing Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas’ imprints: SonRise Devotionals and Straight Street Books. She is a certified life coach and mentor, an eldercare specialist and a special needs advocate. Her book, New Sheets – Thirty Days to Refine You Into the Woman You Can Be is being used to help raise funds for Hope House, an abortion crisis center and her novel, Mercy’s Rain, is giving a voice to children who suffer sexual child abuse. Cindy is also the coauthor of He Said, She Said – A  Devotional Guide to Cultivating a Life of  Passion.

She is the mother of four adult sons and  lives in the mountains of East Tennessee with her husband. Cindy can be contacted at www.cindysproles.com or by emailing cindyksproles@gmail.com.