Engaged: Surrendering the Future

NOTE: Julie Arduini tells about her latest novel here, and is giving one away to a commenter. Enjoy! 

EngagedFinal-page-001_editedLast year I led a ladies Sunday School group through Lysa TerKeurst’s Uninvited. We shared personal stories, so I recalled a time I thought my future was all lined out. I was so certain I knew what God had for me that I went to the library to read up books on my calling. Granted, I had no confirmation in any way this was where my life was headed.

I was a new Christian who thought I knew everything, most of all, the course for my life. When I was wrong, so very wrong, I told the class that I didn’t even cry. I had a peace that I now know came from God. I ended that season by saying if that path wasn’t for me, and it had been so nice, then I looked forward to what WAS His plan. His answer and very obvious plans for me came to pass not even a year later.

That’s why I related to the heroine in ENGAGED: Surrendering the Future. Trish Maxwell thought she had everything figured out for herself. As a little girl in the mountain village of Speculator Falls, her eyes focused on living in New York City. When the job offer came, Trish left her hometown without even saying goodbye. She left her position at the senior center, all the seniors, and even her high school sweetheart, Ben Regan.

Trish was part of ENTRUSTED, and she played a mean girl of sorts. She felt the small village was beneath her, and she had no idea how hurt everyone was about her leaving. When ENGAGED began, Trish changed. The dream job was a nightmare, and it didn’t last. She returned to Speculator Falls, living with her parents. She worked at the department store. Ben married the city-girl who replaced Trish at the senior center. And a lot of people weren’t thrilled to see Trish return.

The heart of ENGAGED explores what God can do when we surrender failed dreams for His plans. When Trish met paramedic Wayne Peterson, she didn’t know about his growing faith borne out of surrender. He had to give up childish plans for what was best. Trish didn’t have a “Plan B,” and her faith was more about doing whatever her parents did. She had a bit of maturing to do, but was willing. It was such a fun story to write.

I’ve been asked about my favorite part to write, and I loved the entire story. Not only did the story come full circle, I was able to wrap up the Surrendering Time series, too. However, when I needed to pick one thing, I admitted every scene with Trish and senior volunteer extraordinaire Shirley McIlwain together wrote itself. Shirley took her duties at the senior center seriously and when Trish left, Shirley couldn’t shake the betrayal. As ENGAGED moved forward, the two interacted a lot. When they attended a baby shower, it was a sweet moment that I’m proud of.

Trish, of course, encountered romance along the way. Wayne, a single-dad, took that role seriously, which wasn’t always the case. Wayne listened to the gossipy whispers that Trish would leave town as soon as the opportunity came, so their romance had conflict from the beginning. Did they work out their issues? I hope you’ll read ENGAGED to find out!

I have ONE copy of ENGAGED to give to a North American winner.

Did you miss reading Book 1, ENTRUSTED? Read the e-Version for FREE at juliearduini.com.

Julie ArduiniJuly2017 loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and —maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, as well as ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past. The last book in the series, ENGAGED: Surrendering the Future released in June. She also shares her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read, and also is a blogger for Inspy Romance. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at http://juliearduini.com, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities.


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Why Write Fiction?

Why Write Fiction

Janet Sketchley, author of the Redemption’s Edge Christian suspense series and the devotional collection, A Year of Tenacity joins us today with a question: Why Write Fiction?  Janet Sketchley headshot 350x350

Historical author Janice L. Dick asked this question recently on her blog, and it’s one that always gets me thinking.

There’s a half-joking piece of advice, “If you can stop writing, then stop.” If you’re not compelled, maybe even obsessed with a story, or if you don’t sense a strong call from God to write, why make the effort?
Writing and revising is hard, even discouraging work, and if you can quit, you might as well do it early on and save yourself the struggle.
I did quit a few times on the road to publication, but each time, I either started missing my characters, or God administered a gentle but pointed “kick of love” to get me going again.
My first novel, Heaven’s Prey, happened because I couldn’t get the characters and their situation out of my head. It’s about the redemption of a serial killer (now you know why I was uncomfortable), and the underlying theme that God’s love is great enough to save even the people we want to write off. This is something I strongly believe, but that belief wouldn’t make me work on writing and revising this story for so many years. Only the characters could motivate me to do that.

My stories are still suspenseful, but less intense. I’m also learning to discover more of the story before writing. That still doesn’t mean I’ll know a theme, but in better understanding the characters, I look to see what they believe about themselves, or about others, or about life. What are they going to learn? That truth will be part of the story, and I’d like to express it in the most natural way possible.
Back to the original question: why write fiction? Well, sometimes it’s just plain fun. (Sometimes it’s hard work, but so is anything else worthwhile.) For me, it’s part of what makes me feel alive. It’s a way that God has gifted me, and even if it’s only for my own edification (you learn a lot, writing about other people) I need to embrace the gift.
What about you? Readers, why do you think people write fiction? Writers, why do you do it?


Heavens_Prey_Front_Cover 300x465

Janet is offering a free ebook: Heaven’s Prey, or if the winning commenter prefers, one of her other books.
Website: janetsketchley.ca
Email: janet@janetsketchley.ca

The Adventure of Writing

“Fiction is art and art is the triumph over chaos… to celebrate a world that lies spread out around us like a bewildering and stupendous dream.”

― John Cheever

Since I’ve never thought of myself as very organized, it’s interesting to ponder writing fiction as triumphing over chaos. But for any of us who has  attempted to control circumstances and people, it makes perfect sense to strive over what T.S. Eliot terms the general mess of imprecision of feeling, Undisciplined squads of emotion.



Isn’t that what wrens do when they set up housekeeping in a world of predators ready to disrupt their nesting?

Ah, yes. That’s what control freaks try to manage–the inner chaos. Of course, our actions spread out to those around us, and we get the sense we’re doing well, even if everyone else is chafing at the bit.

Anyway, writing fiction helps this type of personality by giving us a whole set of characters to manage. To bring to life on the page, with all their secrets and foibles, passions and dreams.

I just read about an author hard at work on a sequel to her first novel. This past year, life has given her more than a full platter of challenges, including grief, but she’s finding joy in working with her characters.


Kind of like gardening…cooperative plants like ajuga grow just about anywhere with relish,




same for Shasta daisies–we can count on them to flourish and multiply with little care,



while others require a gentle hand, lots of water, and shade.



But the act of tending these plants nurtures us. What a gift–glorious July blossoms to delight the eye!

Much like flowers, the gift we receive in focusing on our stories nurtures us, too. What can we say but thanks?





Summer Splash and Doldrums…

Well, it’s mid-July already. Somebody told me the other day that as you age, seasons go even faster, even though you have more time to relax and enjoy them. One of the truths of life we’d rather not face.


But we keep our eyes on the blossoms:


Every summer offers many to delight in, but certain ones seem extra spectacular.




Last night I shared a book talk at the Clear Lake Public Library with Jerry from the Algona POW Museum. Wow – a great crowd, and our audience included a World War II veteran.

When I asked where he was during the war, he said, “I was stationed in England as a pilot.”

Oh my goodness… needless to say, we dropped everything and gave him a round of applause. Takes me back to a fabulous novel someone gave me for my birthday — ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE — such a worthwhile read!

Also reminds me of my Women of the Heartland series . . . two books out already, and one scheduled for release this fall. I haven’t  heard yet about the exact release date for A Purpose True, but it’s coming! 

Can’t get enough of this incredible World War II era, and there’s no time like the summer doldrums to plunge into a meaningful new read.

Happy July 4th- Starbucks card giveaway!


Welcome to Kansas author Barbara Fox, who is offering a commenter a ten-dollar Starbucks card.

I learned a lot here about using Pinterest here, and hope you will, too. Take it away, Barbara!

At first glance, Pinterest looks like an image rich sharing media limited in the use of words, so how can it be of value to a writer?

I live a double-sided writer’s life with my more recent side being inspirational romance. My other side helps riding instructors develop their teaching abilities. I use Pinterest for both venues with a mix of public and private boards. Starting with a private board, I can switch the setting to public once I’m ready to share with potential readers. Private boards are a safe place to develop my concept.

  1. Visuals to Build Your Characters and Their world.

The simplest writer’s use for a board is to collect visuals of people, places and things that represent the characters and settings for your wip. I start with a board devoted to my hero, Jason Hughes. Since his board is private, I can pin hundreds of images of Jason without appearing obsessive! To find my Jason, I entered his qualities into search bar at the top of the page and chose heart throb, Henry Cavill (Superman.) I’m careful to leave Henry’s name on his pictures and just add my character’s name for reference. Since charming Jason doesn’t always have his best foot forward I don’t just look for the gorgeous pictures of Henry Cavill. I search for mad or annoyed Henry, sweaty Henry, clean shaven and bearded Henry.

And Henry doesn’t always dress like my hero, either, so I add pictures of Jason’s style and continue to add more of his personal items, such as his home or horse, the vehicle he drives and anything else that represents him. This gives me the opportunity to see my character on a different level and helps me flesh out my scenes.

Next I add my character’s activities. Jason was in Special Forces and has to make a rescue, so I added night vision goggles, weapons, typical Army gear and possible harnesses he might use in the rescue. And Jason’s Myers Briggs personality test results are on his board, along with more about his personality type.

Collecting anything that shows me who Jason is makes him clearer in my mind and as he develops more fully I delete the pins that no longer fit his image. Sometimes, I’ll browse Jason’s board before writing a scene from his POV to help put myself in his place.

Each of my main characters gets their own private board. If I’m unable to find an exact representation for a character, I’ll use multiple people. I might get facial expression from one person and body language from another. I’ll also add their love interest and any other important people so I can see them together.

I love the quotes on Pinterest and will include one that suits my character. For instance my heroine, Rylie, rides horses. The quote I chose for her reads, “Beware I ride horses which means I own pitchforks, have the strength to haul hay, have the guts to scream a half ton animal after being kicked — YOU will not be a problem.”

  1. Visuals for Writing Description

Being able to stare at a picture and describe what you see is more effective than trying to write a picture from memory. Sometimes I study a picture, describe the facial expression and save it in a file. Later when I need beat ideas, I can access the collection I’ve written for my character. Or I might just write a description based on a pin as a warm-up before I start writing.

Writing from pins is also great for activity. For instance, one of my public boards is Great Kisses, Romance and Dance. If I’m writing a dance scene I’ll look through the pins I’ve collected to see where partners place their hands, how they hold one another, or how their head angles as they gaze into each other’s eyes. Hand-holding has its own expression, whether fingers are entwined just a little or deeply and desperately clasped. The pictures reveal more detail than does our foggy memory or imagination. I have private boards for facial expression, body language, and helps with beats.

  1. Making a Main Board for My Story.

When I’m ready, I move my favorite pictures representing each character and activity to a main board for my wip. When I want to share, I make the board public. Then I’ll use Facebook to attract readers to the Pinterest board where they are drawn into the story. It’s a great way to engage people and receive feedback and they will want to know when your story will be published. Beta readers will enjoy seeing the story from your perspective. Currently I use a working title so as not to interfere if I enter a contest.

There are so many good ways to use Pinterest and this post doesn’t scratch the surface. It would take a series to cover everything. I love Pinterest for its creative stimulus, but it’s also a terrific marketing tool. Pinterest claims 1.75 million active member users each month. In my personal experience, it is the number three portal for entry to my site for riding instructors. For a good post about using Pinterest to promote your book, check out DiAnn Mills’ article, The Power of Pinterest http://www.novelrocket.com/2017/06/the-power-of-pinterest.html

This Pinterest For Creatives post comes with a warning: Beware. Pinterest can hold your attention for hours. It’s easy to start out look at Henry Cavill’s handsome face and end up reading a recipe for gluten free pancakes or unstuffed cabbage rolls.

You can check out my Pinterest page at https://www.pinterest.com/barbaraellinfox/. Look for Rylie and Friends.

Tell us how you use Pinterest as a writer or a reader and we’ll put your name in the bucket for a $10 Starbucks card.

Barb Red Vest 2 copyI write stories about love, hope, healing and horses through contemporary Christian romance. My lifetime experience teaching riders and training horses brings authenticity to my stories about horse lovers in love. My web site is devoted to helping riding instructors with lesson plans, ideas and encouragement for their teaching careers. I live in the Mid-West with an assortment of horses including, my American Mustang, Reno. You can visit me at TheRidingInstructor.net or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/barbaraellinfox


It’s HOT outside! Add a strong wind, and most people choose to stay indoors. Even the little wren outside our back door seems to have the same idea, although she still sings her cheery songs.



The flowers are blooming like crazy – that’s the glory of summer, with trees leafed out in full and grass growing an inch in a few hours.



IMG_4982This year, our daughter gave us a new idea – growing potatoes in a garbage can. You plant a layer, cover them as usual, and wait for them to sprout. Then cover them again.  Keep repeating as the potatoes plants show their leafy heads, and of course, water liberally.  Hopefully you’ll reap a barrel full of potatoes at harvest time.


We’ll see. Sounds like a winner, but time will tell.This brings to mind my latest World War II story, With Each New Dawn. If you need a compelling read this summer, this one’s for you.


This “We’ll see” attitude prevailed during that era when armies tried various tactics, hoping their latest strategy would work. Sometimes they met with success, sometimes not. And my heroine and hero lived through the waiting. 



I’m glad to welcome Cynthia Roemer as she celebrates the publication of her first historical novel. Cynthia, please tell us about your experience researching this story.

Book cover - final

I’m as old-fashioned as they come, so historical novels are a perfect fit for me—both reading and writing. As a reader, I love the nostalgia and all the life lessons one can learn from those who’ve gone before us. But as a writer, I enjoy delving into the past and researching the time period, more specifically the nineteenth century. When writing a historical/historical romance novel, research is a must to ensure the book is true to the time period.

My debut novel, Under This Same Sky, which released in late April, took place in 1854. I’ve been thrilled at some of the comments thus far by reviewers stating the novel “makes you feel exactly like you lived back in those days”. How gratifying such comments are to an author who’s spent countless hours trying to be certain every detail is true and accurate.

The well-known facts are easy to achieve. Under This Same Sky took place on the Illinois prairie in the mid-1800s. Most everyone knows settlers lived in log cabins, but do they know how the cabins were erected and what materials were used to chink the log walls? It’s widely known that covered wagons were often used when traveling across the prairie, but not many will know that a bucket of tallow was kept handy so that when the wheels began to squeak and squeal they had to be greased much like a car engine needs oil to run smoothly.

There were so many questions I had to ask as I wrote the novel: What type of clothing was worn in 1854? What farming equipment was available? Had screen doors been invented? How would my characters cross the Mississippi? What would the city of St. Louis have looked like back then? What type of lighting was used? It’s these fine details that make a novel either believable or, if left out, leave readers with a less than satisfied reaction.

Though research is a vital part of writing a historical novel, that’s not to say a writer can’t have a little fun creating fictional people and places along with the true ones. Under This Same Sky is a blend of fictional and real. My main character, Becky Hollister grows up a few miles outside of the fictional town of Miller Creek, IL, but later travels to the very real town of St. Louis, Missouri. Only one of my characters is based on a real person. The others are products of my imagination.

What’s wonderful about historical fiction is that we can have the best of both worlds—the reality of the past blended with the creativity of fiction. A match that—in this author’s opinion, can’t be beat!

            ~ She thought she’d lost everything ~ Instead she found what she needed most. ~

Illinois ~ 1854

Becky Hollister wants nothing more than to live out her days on the prairie, building a life for herself alongside her future husband. But when a tornado rips through her parents’ farm, killing her mother and sister, she must leave the only home she’s ever known and the man she’s begun to love to accompany her injured father to St. Louis.

Catapulted into a world of unknowns, Becky finds solace in corresponding with Matthew Brody, the handsome pastor back home. But when word comes that he is all but engaged to someone else, she must call upon her faith to decipher her future.


Cynthia Roemer is an award-winning inspirational writer with a heart for scattering seeds of hope into the lives of readers. Raised in the cornfields of rural Illinois, Cynthia enjoys spinning tales set in the backdrop of the 1800s prairie. She writes from her family farm in central Illinois where she resides with her husband and their two college-aged sons.

 Contact Info:

Website: http://cynthiaroemer.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCynthiaRoemer/

Twitter: https://twitter.com@cynthiaroemer


Purchase Info:

Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Under-This-Same-Cynthia-Roemer/dp/194509415X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494271640&sr=8-1&keywords=under+this+same+sky


Could You Write for Chicken Soup For the Soul?

Tracy Crump, our guest this week, has some ideas for writers – and a GIVEAWAY of one Chicken Soup for the Soul book. Enjoy! Welcome, Tracy. 

CS Inspiration for Teachers NEWHow did I come to publish eighteen stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul books?

It’s all Marylane’s doing.

Shortly after I began writing, I joined a writers group led by Marylane Wade Koch. One day she emailed to say Chicken Soup was doing a second book for the nurse’s soul. She knew I had worked as a nurse before I had children and encouraged me to submit.

Me? Nursing was so long ago. Besides, Chicken Soup would never publish anything I wrote. I let the deadline pass.

A few days later, Marylane emailed again. “They’ve extended the deadline for the nurse’s soul book. Why don’t you try submitting something?”

Ok. Now she was pushing. But what could I write about?

I finally thought of one story. And then another. And another. I ended up submitting five stories. They held three for consideration and chose two to publish. Me! In Chicken Soup for the Soul.

CS for Nurse's Soul-book jacket

So what I want you to learn from my story is: If I can do it, you can do it.

Excellent Market

Chicken Soup is a great market for both experienced and inexperienced writers. Open to submissions from anyone, each anthology features 101 stories from writers just like you.

Every book has a unique theme, and Chicken Soup usually has five to ten books in the works at any given time. They publish true inspirational stories and poems, and even though they are a general market series, editors allow writers to include an element of faith. What a great opportunity for Christian writers.

Nice Pay

While it’s not a fortune, Chicken Soup does pay a solid $200 per accepted story or poem. That’s not bad for a piece under 1200 words.

And contributors also get 10 free books per story published. They can be given as gifts or sold at back-of-the-room events. A nice perk.

Fun Workshops

Now eighteen stories later, I conduct workshops on writing for the best-selling series in publishing history. My writing partners and I teach what Chicken Soup wants, what they don’t want, and how to stir up a winning story. And attendees have a blast in our breakout sessions doing mind mapping and dissecting chickens. (Don’t worry—no animals are harmed in the making of a story.)

So why don’t you try your hand at writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul?

If I can do it, you can do it!


Thanks Tracy – I hope someone who reads this will give it a go!  

Bio: Tracy Crump loves to tell stories (the good kind) and has published two dozen of them in anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Soul. She conducts workshops and webinars on writing for the popular series and recently began taking the show on the road, partnering with writers who want to bring “Stirring the Pot: Writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul” to their area. She has also published numerous articles and devotionals in publications such as Focus on the Family, Mature Living, ParentLife, and Upper Room. Her free writers newsletter includes original articles from industry professionals such as Liz Curtis Higgs and Angela Hunt as well as story callouts for Chicken Soup and other anthologies. Visit Tracy at www.TracyCrump.com or www.WriteLifeWorkshops.com.

Pursuing Gold – Striving for Excellence

Cynthia Simmons not only writes about characters who face huge odds, she’s faced them herself. Please tell us about your experience, Cynthia.

Have you ever faced a task so daunting and intimidating you wanted to run the opposite direction? I did. We homeschooled all of our children, but then the Lord presented me with a special gift: my fifth child with severe disabilities. I was already a busy mother, but had found my sweet spot, my comfortable zone in teaching.

When God landed sweet little Caleb in my lap, I was quite frustrated because I felt I couldn’t do more. That feeling only grew as he turned out to have grand mal seizures and multiple disabilities. The psychologist who tested my son commented on the myriad of weaknesses without corresponding strengths to help him overcome.

I remember telling the Lord I’d had enough, and that someone would write on my tombstone, “She Homeschooled.” Certainly I would be teaching him forever since getting him to learn even the simplest task took Herculean strength.

Just imagine teaching a child to count. I always handed my kids blocks, and we’d pick up a block as we said the numbers, “one, two, three, four.” That worked with my other children, but failed horribly with Caleb. You see, he expended so much effort to pick up a block that he couldn’t say the numbers. Getting the numbers in the correct order was almost impossible too. (We call that sequencing, which was one of his disabilities.)

Of course, I didn’t know the list of problems he harbored when I started. His bloodcurdling screams rattled me. Imagine your son screaming, “I’m stupid. I’m stupid, I’m stupid.” Oh how that hurt!

Looking back, I see the Lord’s guidance at his birth. We’d named him Caleb after the Caleb in the Old Testament who trusted God could defeat the Canaanites. After wandering in the wilderness with the other Jewish people, he was seventy-eight when he entered the Promised Land and eighty-five when he climbed the mountain to defeat the giants the Israelites had feared. We told Caleb that story so many times. His namesake persevered, and he and I had to do the same thing.

“…we exult in our tribulations knowing that tribulation brings perseverance…” Romans 5

I didn’t want to give up, though I often felt as if I were pushing a bus up a mountain. When I stopped to measure, I’d gone an inch. Caleb reversed letters and numbers, making it hard for him to read or write. I had to use special techniques to help him discern the shape and direction of anything on paper. We wrote letters in whipped cream, sand, cookie dough, and play dough.

It still took him months to connect the shape of the letter with the name and sound. After that gut wrenching battle, he learned to read and write. Caleb has boundless compassion for anyone unhappy or suffering. Just like a bee rushes to nectar, he finds that one discouraged person and tries to make him or her feel better.

I’ve given you a brief summary of Caleb’s intense battles. Now I understand staying with the job, and striving for excellence was what God wanted for my husband and I. Both of us grew during those grueling years. We worked hard, and God blessed our efforts. Let me encourage you to do the same in whatever difficulty you face.


PG cover

With his father dead and his business partner incapacitated, Peter Chandler inherits the leadership of a bank in economic crisis. With only a newly-minted college degree and little experience, Peter joins his partner’s daughter, Mary Beth Roper, in a struggle to keep C&R Bank afloat while the Civil War rages around Chattanooga. Political pressure for unsecured loans of gold to the government stirs up trouble as tempers and prices rise. Their problems multiply when Mary Beth discovers counterfeit money with Peter’s forged signature. Can they find the forger before the bank fails? The two friends must pursue gold on behalf of their business, as they learn to pursue their heavenly Father to find hope and peace. Cynthia is giving away a print copy of this novel to one commenter on this blog. 

Cynthia 3

A Chattanooga native, Cynthia L Simmons and her husband have five children and reside in Atlanta. A Bible teacher and former homeschool mother, she writes a column for Leading Hearts Magazine. She conducts writing workshops, served as past president of Christian Authors Guild and directs Atlanta Christian Writing Conference. “Cyndi” is fond of history and offers younger ladies the elegance of God’s wisdom. She hosts Heart of the Matter Radio and co-founded Homeschool Answers. Her author website is www.clsimmons.com.

This morning, a nifty anonymous quote appeared on my teabag- thank you, whoever came up with this:

                  The ones who say, “You can’t” and “you won’t”

                  are probably the ones scared that you will.



Will this little house wren move into our rather dilapidated offering?








Will this American tree sparrow father a healthy brood of chicks this summer?


Will my poor tulips make it through the cold spell we’ve been having?








And this early butterfly, will it …” I’ll let you think of a question about this delicate creature.


And what about us? Will we take the plunge to submit our writing for publication? Will we go through with our plan simplify our lifestyle?

Will we … what ever decisions we face, chances are some naysayers exist. Mine live mostly in my own heart, so I’ve had to learn to ignore them. I used to hope they’d magically disappear, but that hasn’t happened in the past six decades, so I doubt it will.

Today, we’re attending our nephew’s high school graduation party. He’s such a cool young man – I hope he moves ahead through life with confidence and positivity.

Ignoring those who say we can’t or won’t–a good resolution to make as spring bursts into summer!