November Article Roundup

November Article Roundup

November is one of those wonderful months which, thanks to NaNoWriMo and its popularity, usually abounds with fascinating articles–in-depth, hilarious and everywhere in between. Here’s just a handful that I ran across this month:

  1. 21 Self-Editing Secrets that Can Supercharge Your Manuscript
  2. 4 Ways to Write Faster        
  3. How to Translate What the Writer-Creature is Trying to Say
  4. 5 Ways to Find a Writing Community\
  5. 5 Steps to Balance Writing and Marketing Like A Boss

Have any of these articles been helpful to you? What are your favorite articles you’ve read in the past month?

Black Friday Book Sale!


I have an exciting announcement, people!

In honor of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, a group of independent Christian authors banded together to offer over seventy discounted books on Nov 27-30. There’s literally something for everyone.

Every single book listed on Indie Christian Books is on sale in one or more ways. Find discounted paperbacks, dozens of books offered with free shipping, $0.99 ebooks, package deals and more. Even if you have a budget of $0, new reading material awaits you.

Don’t know what to pick? The Indie Christian Books team created a quiz that will generate a book list perfect for you!

What awesome reads of 2015 are you grateful for? What books are you looking forward to reading in 2016?

A note on the Ebooks Only page. All books are listed as “Sold Out.” This only refers to paperback copies of these titles. Please click onto the product pages to find descriptions and links to discounted or free ebooks.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Leah E. Good for her work organizing this sale, Gloria Repp for completing the time consuming job of uploading book info to the sale website, and Hannah Mills for her fantastic design work on the website graphics. Hannah can be contacted at hmills(at)omorecollege(dot)edu for more information about her design services.

Desert Island Reads Tag

Desert Island Reads Tag.png

My friend Joy participated in a #desertislandreads tag some time ago, and tagged me for it. The idea is to choose the eight books you would most like to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island. As a bibliophile I found this to be a sort of torturous sort of tag. Nevertheless, suspending some reality (I would actually throw a couple survival books in there) and putting a bit of a wry spin on it, here is my list.

The Bible—this is a no-brainer and, well, absolutely essential.

Perfect Square by Michael Hall—it’s so well done, and the colors are so bright. I have read this book a hundred times to little children, and I still love it, so if I had to read it basically forever, there is a good chance I wouldn’t get tired of it.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien—the three-book edition of course. I could finally read this book multiple times a year, and love it to pieces.

The Shield Ring by Rosemary Sutcliff—I had a very hard time choosing just one Rosemary Sutcliff, but this one has a very special place in my heart. The good moments are just too good.

Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem—I would finally have the time to read through that entire, fat book. (And it would help me to understand my Bible better!)

Seamanship in the Age of Sail by John Harland—I’ve always needed more time to research, and I would definitely know how to sail away from the island if ever an old sailing ship drifted my way….

For Love of a Donkey by Betty Morgan Bowen—this is one I literally don’t want to be parted with. It is a little-known story set in post WWII Germany, about a girl and her donkey and an old man travelling across war-torn Germany to reach a children’s village in Switzerland. If you want “all the feels” (to borrow the much-used term), read this book.

Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry—for inspiration on how to make the most of my time being stuck on an island. And so I’ll know what to do if I’m ever attacked by an octopus, a shark, a wild boar, or cannibals.


What would your eight picks be? Feel free to grab the tag or tell me in the comments below!


What I Learned During This Year’s NaNoWriMo

What I Learned During This Year's NaNoWriMo

I know that NaNoWriMo is still far from over, but since I am going to hopefully validate my 50,000 tonight, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned since last year about this hectic wonderful event. My goal had been to validate by the 20th, but alas, I had to play a concert last night, and wasn’t ready enough to validate beforehand. But what are goals if you can’t make them flex for you sometimes? And for all my Nano friends, I will be sticking around through the 30th, as I am shooting for 75,000 so that I can actually finish the book!

Here’s what I’ve learned this time through:

-Pick your best writing time and try to work with it (mine is first thing in the morning). I’ve woken without fail at 6am ever since NaNoWriMo started to get writing in before the day’s rush, and it has been a lifesaver for both me and my family.

-Consistency is the ticket, but don’t stress out if you get a little behind.

-Do not sacrifice other people/duties/higher priorities for it. We celebrated my brother’s birthday one weekend, and ever since then I’ve been trying to get back on track. And that is just fine.

-Only think about what needs to be done today. Don’t go worrying about the thousands of words you have left—just focus, and worry about tomorrow when it arrives, not before.

-If your inspiration is flowing, don’t stop, even if you’ve made your goal. On hectic days you’ll be thankful for the extra word count.

-Don’t lose sight of the big picture. Some writing is better than none, and hey, 50,000 words is very impressive.

-Don’t compare your word count to other people’s. There is always going to be someone who can write faster or has more time than you, and you cannot let early finishers get you down. (For an example, check out the amazing Cait’s feat). Instead, let them inspire you and give you something to aim for in the future.

-Cocoa is supposed to boost your brain’s intelligence levels, and coffee boosts your comprehension and creative choice of words. Oh yeah!

– Choose a story you love for NaNoWriMo. You are always going to have moments when it’s drudgery, but if your heart’s in it, you’ll bound out of the low times so much faster.

-Know what works for you, and don’t be afraid to break a couple rules. (I do minor self-editing, since I know I am going to forget otherwise!)

-Encourage others who are participating.

-And have fun! It’s a lot harder when you’re not enjoying yourself.


Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo? What are some things you have learned through doing it?

Five Things: A Thankfulness Post

Five Things.png

Yesterday was my birthday. And, as a dear friend was pointing out to me, so many wonderful things have happened since my last one. I conceived the story that is to become my debut novel, wrote it, started this blog, started a contest with very dear friends—well, I am getting ahead of myself.

This post is dedicated to thankfulness, in gratitude to all that God has done over the last year for me, and in looking forward to what lies ahead in the year to follow.

Five Things


From this past year

Crowning Heaven—this is the novel I am planning on debuting. It came out of nowhere and broadsided me, asking to be written. So I wrote it, and though it is a long ways from being ready, it still gives me excited feels and surprises me with parallels and depth I had no clue were there when I wrote it.

I met Annie Hawthorne—at long last. I had sort of seen her around online for a year or two, but after joining Twitter I got to know her better, and this year I got to see her and talk face to face. She is a dear, dear friend, and my life has an extra bright spot in it now that is called Annie.

The Herosinger Blog—this little blog launched, and contrary to my fears that I would never be able to write articles, much less on a regular basis, it was well received. I am so thankful to all my dear friends who drop by and make this blog worthwhile.

James Horner—one of my favorite composers ever passed away this year. And while I was gutted about it, I have been even more thankful this year for his music and the beautiful gift it has been, and still is, to me.

Book Groups—this year I have been in multiple book groups, and have been immensely blessed by the great fellowship and deep theological discussions they have provided.



Loving Family—my family is always very special, but around my birthday they have been especially kind and affectionate, doing little things to make the day special, giving hugs, and telling me how much they love me.

Writing Friends—ever since I joined Twitter, I have found a lovely circle of good writers and kind people. They have encouraged me, given me advice, and simply been there when I needed some motivation.

NaNoWriMo—I am currently sitting outside the 40,000 word mark in my NaNo project. It is a book I have waited for two years to write, and I am loving (almost) every minute of this experience.

The Sea Scribblers—two friends and I organized this little group, and we are currently running a short story contest through it. I could not have done it without them, for sure.

The Little Things—coffee in the mornings when I get up, mastering the canter on big warmblood horses, blank notebooks, baby kisses, letters from friends, tasty food, and new music from favorite composers all are just part of what makes me thankful simply to be alive.

For the Future:

Beta Readers—starting in early December I am sending out my edited draft of my WIP to beta readers for the very first time. I am looking forward to enjoying the opinions and advice of my dear fellow readers and writers.

Research—I have my two primary research books for the ship story I have been working on for the last few years, and next summer I will have an opportunity to see some old-fashioned tall ships in person. To the sea!

The Sea Scribblers Short Story Contest—all of you are hard at work on your entries, right? Right?

Watching my Friends’ Adventures—I have friends who are writing books, getting married, having babies, and working on all sorts of Weighty Endeavors, and I am excited to see it all unfold.

Reading New Books—I have a nice stack of recommended reads, and books I have bought and been given as gifts (like the Just So Stories, which I have never read!) and I am very much looking forward to having new adventures through them all.


Buying Books Online: 5 Great Alternatives to Amazon

5 Great Amazon Alternatives For Buying Books Online

If you are anything like me, you love how easy Amazon has made it to find and buy books, and yet sometimes you cringe at how much of the market they are dominating. My family used to sell used books online, so I have had hands-on learning experience with all sorts of online retailers. (It was a dream job, but believe it or not, I did get sick of books at one point!)

Being the frugal, book-loving person I am, I like to find the best deal, and I like, when I can, to support the smaller businesses. All these listed below I have either used, bought from, or sold from.

1. Addall Used and Out of Print Book Search

Don’t be deceived by its title—this search engine pulls up everything. This is what we used to use when we wanted to find the value of a book, because it finds and pulls up all the copies that are for sale from about 40 different online retailers. You can usually find the best price on here. It has the seller descriptions right on the listings, it tells you what retailer it’s from, and you just click the title and it takes you through to the site where you can buy it. While it’s not a retail site itself, it is a gateway to many of them.

2. Alibris

Alibris is a great place; they sell movies and music in addition to books. This is a used book site, but they have good prices, and you can often find a book in “Like New” condition. The search is easy—you can use title, author, or ISBN, and you can see the individual retailers’ ratings right next to your book listings. It was on this site that I found my $200 research book for about $35.

3. Abebooks

Abebooks is really our go-to site when we don’t want Amazon. They have a wide selection, you can run detailed searches (books with free shipping, hardcover/softcover, dust-jacket, signed, etc.), and many of their books have free shipping within the US.

4. Half

Let me just say that as a book dealer, I hated Half. I would look up a book that was selling for $400 on all other listings, and then you look at Half, and it’s listed for $75. (I’ve used a large example, but it is a true story.) Nothing like that to immediately drop your book’s value. However, now that I am on the buying end, Half is my friend. They sell good books for good prices, and like many of the others, they are easy to search, have lots of options, and show seller ratings right up front.

5. Biblio

Biblio is a lot like the other sites, only it has some other fancy features like a bookshop finder, and gift ideas for writers and bibliophiles. However, some of their selections can be a little pricier than the other places I have mentioned today.

Where do you shop for your books? Have you used any of these sites before?

The World of Writing Music Artist Feature: James Horner


The artist I am featuring today is one that I have loved almost my entire life. His soundtrack for Braveheart has been in our CD collection ever since I can remember, and the track “Sons of Scotland” was the very first song I fell in love with. For some time he was hands-down my favorite composer, and even with Patrick Doyle taking that spot now, he is solidly my second favorite, and probably will be for the rest of my life.

May I present to you James Horner.

jhornerAbout the artist: James Horner was born in California to Jewish parents, and at the age of five started playing piano. He studied music in England as a boy, and then got his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in music from US colleges. Soon after, he took up composing for films, and wrote prolifically. He won multiple awards for his scores, and scored the two highest-grossing films of all time, as well as the bestselling film soundtrack of all time. He was killed in June of 2015, when the plane he was piloting crashed in a national forest in California. He was in the middle of writing two scores when he passed away, and upon going through his music after his death, his assistants discovered that he had written a full score for the upcoming film The Magnificent Seven using the script alone, as a surprise for the film’s director.

Why I recommend him:   

James’s music connects directly to your heart and to your emotions. It is warm, stirring music that is at the same time versatile—noble and blood-pumping, or quiet and tender. He said once that he wrote his music to connect your heart to the story. He is another composer who understands the importance of storytelling through the music, not just setting a specific mood. And he is known for his use of Uilleann pipes, so that’s that.

What I use his music for:

-General playlist music

-Listening through an album start to finish

-Inspiring a specific emotion or tone in a scene

Favorite Albums:



Apollo 13


Legends of the Fall

Patriot Games

Favorite Tracks:

Sons of Scotland (Braveheart)

Freedom/Bannockburn (Braveheart)

Hymn to the Sea (Titanic)

The Ludlows (Legends of the Fall)

The Launch (Apollo 13)

Alfred, Tristan, The Colonel, The Legend (Legends of the Fall)

Rooftop Kiss (The Amazing Spider-Man)

The Legend Spreads (Braveheart)

Have you heard any of James Horner’s scores? If so, which tracks are your favorites?

Ten (Mostly Random) Things You Can Do to Get Out of a Character Rut

Ten (Mostly Random) Things You Can Do to Get Out of a Character Rut

It happens to all of us. Our characters get lackluster, boring, and we can’t seem to make them pop. We fight it, and it only just gets worse. They were so interesting before, and now they just seem like every other character we ever wrote.

A number of years ago, I realized that if I made some of my decisions randomly, I couldn’t fall into character ruts. And I’ll tell you, it challenged me so much more in my writing. Some people do not like random, and I can understand their point of view, but I find that taking the decision out of your own hands can be invaluable in inducing creativity, and in the end you can always put your foot down if the random goes totally against your character’s nature.

Here are ten things that I have used with success to break out of a rut:

-Put character traits on paper, mix up, and assign 3 to each character.

-Go onto Pinterest, randomly choose quotes/prompts for each character.

-Think of a random happening, i.e., falling down stairs, near drowning experience, being forced to eat food they hate, and randomly assign one to each.

-Cast your characters. Sometimes a face helps get you jumpstarted.

-Randomly choose theme songs and make your characters fit them.

-Ask them crazy questions.

-Ask them yes and no questions, and randomly generate their answer ie: 1=yes 2=no. I have had some hilarious results from this.

-Assign a title to each one, i.e., The Rebel, The Exile, The Unbroken Spirit; something that sort of encompasses who they are. I have done this both randomly and not randomly with much success.

-Randomly assign them a strength and a weakness.

-Choose a quirk or an interest—say, being afraid of germs, or being great at imitations, and randomly assign one or two to each character.

What do you do when your characters aren’t coming to life? Have you ever used randomness in your writing before?

The Sea Scribblers Short Story Contest


Hello to all my wonderful readers!  Today is a very special day–myself and a couple of blog friends have been working for a while on a special surprise, and today I am excited to announce that I am hosting a joint short story contest with Schuyler McConkey of My Lady Bibliophile and Annie Hawthorne of The Curious Wren!

The Challenge: To write a short story, 3,000 words or less, using one or a combination of all three photo prompts from our blogs, with a clever incorporation of a winter or Christmas theme.   You will then send it to seascribblerscontest[at]gmail[dot]com no later than December 12th.

Ready to jump in?

My photo prompt is below:


To check out the other prompts, please visit Schuyler and Annie‘s sites.

And now for the rules (and better yet!) the prizes:

Contest Rules 

  1. All entries must be submitted to seascribblerscontest[at]gmail[dot]com by December 12, 2015, midnight EST. Files should be .doc files.
  2. Entries should be no more than 3,000 words. There is no minimum word requirement. Entries must use one of the photo prompts provided, and contain a Christmas or winter theme. Contestants may submit up to three seperate entries, but only one entry can win.
  3. Email subject line should read “Entry for 2015 SEA Scribblers Short Story Contest” and should not contain your story title.
  4. Entries should be in Times New Roman, size 12 font.
  5. Entries will be judged for creative use of the photo prompt, style, and grammar.
  6. No language or explicit sex, please.
  7. Judges for the contest are Annie Hawthorne, Emily Hayse, and Schuyler McConkey.
  8. Winners will be notified by email and announced online on Saturday, December 19th.
  9. The final entry will be posted on the judges’ blogs. All stories remain the property of their owners, but may be used for promotional purposes in connection with the contest.
  10. The Art of War for Writers will be shipped to contestants outside the US. However, the bookmark will only be shipped to US entries, and if a person outside the US wins second place, a digital prize will be substituted.

Prize List

  1. First place winner will receive a paperback copy of The Art of War for Writers, by James Scott Bell and a digital copy of The Rakshasa’s Bride, by Suzannah Rowntree.
  2. Second place winner will receive a digital anthology of short stories by Annie, Emily, and Schuyler, as well as a bookmark.
  3. Third place winner will receive a $10 giftcard to The Book Depository.

If you have any questions, feel free to email us at seascribblerscontest[at]gmail[dot]com.

I look forward to reading your entries!

Ascending Into the High Stars: Snippets Post

Ascending Into the High Stars_ Snippets Post

I have gotten a couple requests for snippets posts, and today seemed the perfect day, what with NaNoWriMo in full swing. The snippets are from three different projects of mine: a planetary fantasy, and two historical fiction, 1950’s Ireland and 1690’s England respectively.  Enjoy!

The barrista reached back and grabbed a tall coffee cup and a Sharpie. “Name?”



“No, Heaven.” She cleared her throat and indicated upwards. “Like the sky.”

The word Heaven was scrawled onto the cup. “It’ll be ready in a minute—you can have a seat if you like.”

Crowning Heaven

“We do not want you,” he said, “and we do not want any such empty promises. I know Alta Fallek too well. Go home, and if I see your face again, I will order you shot.”

Lysander’s face, which had been a sullen mix of ceremony and duty, turned stubborn. “I cannot,” he replied. “I am bound by my country’s ancient oaths. I cannot return, or they will kill me.”

-Crowning Heaven

Over the noise of battle came again a long whistle, different in pitch from the first, and in the patches of clear, Heaven could see dogs swarming back, some limping, some bounding, and others crawling, trying in their dying moments to obey their master’s command. The Keeper of the Dogs himself was striding out to meet them, calling some by name, calling and calling them back….

Heaven watched and could not look away, though it tore her heart to look, as the Keeper went to his knees among his dogs, comforting them and praising them as they returned. At last he rose, dirty and bloodstained, the only clean places where tears had streamed down his face, and called the dogs who could return with him back from the front. “So many of you,” he was murmuring, shaking his head. “So many of you have not returned. So few remain.”

Crowning Heaven

She glanced up from the page to see that the earth truly had slipped away—it was but a blue sphere far below them, and they were ascending into the high stars. She lifted her face to them, and they shone upon her warmly as if crying a welcome. And somehow, she felt that they were familiar friends—like one’s own constellations, not remote and unknown. But then—she caught her breath sharply—a scent came to her on a faint wind, like spring after winter and clear air and sunshine. It was the smell of home.

Crowning Heaven


Policeman Shaw strode grimly over to Ian with the air of one about to reprimand a child for the same sin he has committed over and over.

“Tiernay, I should lay you out,” he growled, shaking his head. The waiter beat it back to the pub, and Egan stood waiting awkwardly for the confrontation to be over.

“Hand me the wallet.” Shaw’s large hand sat outstretched, waiting. Hastily Ian fumbled in his pockets and drew forth a plain brown wallet. The policeman took it and looked inside. “This is Liam Kane’s,” he replied sternly.

The hapless wallet was tossed onto his desk behind him and the hand stretched out again with unyielding firmness. Egan could tell Ian was growing more anxious. Sweat began to trickle down the man’s collar as he rummaged again through his pockets. He pulled a wallet out briefly but with a murmur of, “Oh, that’s mine,” he thrust it back in. At last he found a black one in the pocket of his coat and yielded it up.

-The Crumlin Incident

At the bottom, he held up the lantern and stood frozen, unable to speak. About him lay boxes upon boxes of brand-new guns, the shipping labels from America still on some of the crates. He had only ever heard rumors of such things—yet there was no question about these. These were smuggled IRA guns.

The Crumlin Incident

It was drizzling in the street: not enough to soak a man, but enough to make it hard to see, and thunder growled outside of town, making hearing hard. It was a bad night to catch a spy…. Almost without thinking Egan set his hand on his gun as he walked, running his long fingers along the barrel and hoping that he would not need it—hoping that he would not be followed in the first place.

His hopes were disappointed.

The Crumlin Incident


“Are you in his navy, then?”

“The navy? The navy? Do we look like we are in the navy? Poor pressed souls, in uniforms and under hard captains—no, we are not in the navy.”

Ship Story

Gunner Sweet, looking more than done up in his going-ashore clothes, his hair and beard brushed exquisitely, went over to Lindsay and crouched down beside him.

“Say, you haven’t a ring I could borrow, do you? I need one badly.”

“A ring?” Sean’s hand went instinctively to his chest. “Now what use would you be putting a ring to so hastily?”

“The usual thing rings are meant for.”

“Have you any of your own?”

“Alas, no. I sold mine to a jeweler in London.”

“Well, what did you do that for, man?”

“I did not want them then. I have a most particular use for one now….”

Ship Story

No sooner were the words out of his mouth than a cannon blast tore through right where he was walking, with a roar so deafening the memory of it would stay with him his entire life.

Ship Story

For a moment everything was shaky before his eyes, and he gripped the mast with both hands for balance. Then everything cleared before his eyes and the shaky dizziness went away, leaving him speechless at the sight before him. All around, as far as his eye could see, was vast blue: the sea deep and majestic, spreading out endlessly like a plain, and the bright, shining blue sky like a great canvas all about and above him, and set in it, like a blinding jewel, the sun.

It was Nicky who put it into words. “Isn’t it glorious!” he shouted over the warm, brisk wind, with a smile born of wonder that could not be contained.

Ship Story