I’m so pleased to introduce Monica McCann to you all. She’s one of the contributing authors in  A Hill Country Christmas- Truths for Troubled Trails. A former teacher, she’s helped introduce writing to many students, and now gets to GO FOR IT herself! I appreciated her thoughts here, since I’ve also written notes for a novel on many an unworthy scrap of paper. We’ll be hearing more from Monica, I’m sure of it!

Monica says…

I always imagined when I “became a real writer” that my writing would be this organized, linear, easy telling of a story on paper. After all, I have been telling stories to myself, to my pets, to my best friend my whole life.  Ha! Silly me. 

I have two novels and two short stories that I am in the middle of and none of them just flow from my fingers to my laptop. I have sticky notes and legal pads and 30 tabs open on my computer screen for research (yes,30, I just counted them).  I am not claiming this is the best way, this is just my way. 

What I have found to be true is that “writing” happens at all hours, in inconvenient places and not always on paper. It can be messy.  Stories appear as we go about our day. Inspiration will dawn suddenly and as my daddy always said, “Gotta make hay while the sun shines.”  

Sometimes that happens while you are on a plane dutifully reading a book to help you with your fear of the editing process. The exercise in this book shed light on one of my unfinished novels that lays waiting in the dark. I knew my aging brain would remember only part of the idea if I wrote it later, so I wanted to get it down.

 I hadn’t brought my laptop or a notebook, and the tiny napkin from my airline refreshment would handle very little of my swoopy cursive. What did I find? The airsick bag! My whole row’s air-sick bags. Yep, I am a real writer.

One of my short story ideas started with a person and a geographical location. That led me to his sister, who authored a book about the place, which led me to another historical website, and there was my story waiting for me. 

 Driving to town yesterday, a song on the radio made me think about what it would be like to look someone in the eye that you had thought was lost to you in time. Suddenly my idea became two living, breathing people. I get horribly carsick so writing while sitting in the car is not my favorite, but I grabbed my new notebook out of my bag (My husband, appalled at my behavior on the airplane, bought me two.) I wrote feverishly, and oh so messy, in my notebook for the entire hour drive. 

Today I am back at the computer, translating my scribbles from yesterday, and the voice memo I made for myself while walking this morning. A few more tabs of research will be opened.  The husband or the dogs will interrupt me a dozen or more times, so the “writing” continues in my head.

 I will continue to gather sticky notes and other pieces of my story here and there. None of this disqualifies me as a “real writer.” I am so thankful for people that encourage me to just tell the stories. 

I think the truth I have been learning is the same truth the Velveteen Rabbit learned.

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

 Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit

         Becoming a real writer is something that happens as you write. It is sometimes painful, often messy, and in the end, wonderfully real.

Tools of the trade

Monica McCann is one of the contributing authors in 

A Hill Country Christmas- Truths for Troubled Trails.

On Consistency – Brenda Poulos – April 13, 2015

This week, Christian Writers of the West president Brenda Poulos gives us some NEW YEAR’S ADVICE for April. Welcome, Brenda!


A lot can happen between January and April. A writing plan made at the beginning of the year will simply not take us past spring, into summer and beyond. It’s time to revisit, update and, if necessary, rewrite.

In April, we may ask: Is my plan still working? Is it still realistic? What has changed in my life since the plan was written?  What needs to be adjusted?
Here’s what I have found. The culprit is time. In January, I failed to factor in time for research, webinars, and writing-related reading or allow for the hours to complete submissions.

Finally, I scheduled so much writing, I failed to leave enough time available for my personal life—family dinners, movies with my husband, walking the dog.

DSC01952Baxter was glad to hear that walking the dog was now part of the daily plan…
So, perhaps I need to include devotions, writing, exercise, volunteering, family/friends activities, housework, and leisure. I need to allow for the unplanned, too—that surprise visit from Aunt Martha, an unexpected phone call, a refrigerator on the fritz.
This quarter, I’m tackling this time problem, once and for all. I won’t answering the door or phone during my scheduled writing time. I’ll be answering voicemail, email, and texts once my writing time is completed. Second, I’m building in an hour of flex time—time for the “expected interruptions.”

I don’t know exactly when they will come, but I do know with a fair degree of certainty that they will. And when they do, I’ll be ready.
I’m hoping this new daily plan will keep me from getting frazzled and help me meet my husband at the door with a smile, rather than the wild-eyed look I’ve been famous for these last few months.

And, oh yes, I’m giving myself a little reward at the end of each day I actually keep to my plan.

Pleasure reading, calling a friend and chatting (yes, a real conversation, not a text), enjoying lemonade on the patio, and watching a favorite television show are on my short list.
Your problem may not be time, but self-motivation or organization. No matter what they are, problems will remain problems, unless we meet them head on.
It all starts with a plan, tweaked often so we can better reach our writing goals, and offering rewards in increments to encourage daily writing.
This year, someone will write words to inspire others for generations to come. Will those words be yours?

Learn more about Brenda and Christian Writers of the West Here:


Please feel free to share your thoughts and what has worked for you, and thanks for stopping by. Brenda would love to have you visit her websites at: www.spiritualsnippets.com and www.brendapoulos.wordpress.com She lives in Gilbert, Arizona with husband, John, and aging pets, Baxter and Brinkley. She volunteers at Gilbert Christian School, Hospice of the Valley, and serves in various ministries at Grace Church in Mesa.

Tracy Groot on Setting and Site Visits


Elk and javelina epitomize these rugged Ponderosa forests, the setting for one of my novels, and time spent here makes all the difference in writing.

Today, Tracy Groot shares about visiting the site of your novel.

“Site visits are very important. “The land speaks” even decades or centuries or millennia later. Visits have an orienting effect and always, always, always yield the unexpected: my visits to Andersonville for The Sentinels of Andersonville yielded impromptu interviews with the mayor, a storeowner, a museum curator. 

“Visiting a site can infuse your story with small but important details–lovely specificities that round out the tone of many scenes. Also, check out any local museums—they usually have dynamite bookstores.

“My visit to France for Flame of Resistance yielded such a wealth of information, I cannot imagine how the book would’ve turned out without it; I ate the local food in Normandy, visited multiple WWII museums, talked with elderly folk who’d been around during the war. Priceless! And fun! And we’ve learned to combine site visits with family vacations, to save money.”

Did I mention I’ve been working on a World War II series set in Southern France for a looooong time . . . maybe a visit is in order!

Last week we focused on character, so here’s a bit more from Tracy on that. (Can’t you just see character in this scrounger eating food scraps?) 


Character always informs story and plot for Tracy. “I love what British historian Arnold Toynbee said, that character results from a person’s heredity and interaction with his environment; so I research where one of my characters is from to  develop his or her story and personality. Getting to know the character and realizing how they act or react, helps to inform plot.”

What story does Tracy resonate with most?

“Each book has something that is a part of me—scenes in every one came from the gut—and it’s still a thrill and joy that these scenes actually made it to paper. It’s hard to nail down a favorite—I usually pick the one I’ve last worked on, ha ha! Maggie Bright, a story about the rescue of the British army at Dunkirk, is a current fave. It comes out in May 2015.”

Heartfelt thanks to Tracy for giving us an inside look at her vocation—perhaps readers will get a feel for the commitment she puts into each novel. And writers, she’s given us a wealth of food for thought. Feel free to comment about anything and everything. And be watching for Maggie Bright.

Please include contact information with your comment in order to vie for the prize of Tracy’s The Sentinels of Andersonville. We’ll announce the winner next week and send the copy to you posthaste.