Writers tend to be creatures of habit and sticklers for staying on track. Schedules are important. Meeting deadlines is critical. As any writer will tell you, the actual writing of the story happens after days (weeks/months) of research, building the setting, developing the characters–and for some of us–writing a detailed synopsis. Add to that the normal activities connected to family and friends and church, holidays, unexpected home or auto repairs, and social events we don’t really have time for but are too much fun to pass up. Some writers also have day jobs that shorten the amount of time that can be spent writing.

But what happens when an unwelcomed and uninvited intruder barges into your life and there is nothing you can do about it? That happened at our house three months ago. This unwanted guest arrived without warning and expected us to simply accept him into the family. The intruder is still here, freeloading on our time and stealing our energy. We tried pushing him out the door, but he keeps getting back in.

Yes, the intruder has a name: Cancer.

While we didn’t have an inkling cancer was about to pay us a visit, Someone else did. Nothing cancer can do goes unnoticed by God. My husband was diagnosed with cancer in March, had surgery in April, and began chemotherapy in May. Were we prepared? That’s a hard question to answer. My first inclination is to say, “No way!” But I am beginning to see God’s fingerprints on mile markers along this journey, and I suspect He was preparing us without our knowledge.

So why wouldn’t God tell us this was going to happen? It’s not like we could run away from it. A cancer diagnosis isn’t like a hurricane warning–you don’t secure the shutters and stock up on batteries and drinking water. But I believe God knows we will lean on Him and trust Him more deeply if we aren’t forewarned. Psalm 34 says, The righteous (believers) cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. (v.17-18)

God not only has heard us, but He’s walked with us, and never left us alone. A staggering number of people have prayed for us, and our church family has come alongside us in ways we didn’t expect. Some stepped up to help with areas of service to which I had already committed, and one sweet young couple is even mowing our grass. In addition, God has given us opportunities to share His love with those we’ve encountered along the way–folks we might not have met had it not been for the cancer.

God has done something else, too. When I was completely overwhelmed trying to find time to get everything done, my husband’s appointments and treatment schedule, plus find time to write. . . He did it. He sent gracious people to give me a hand doing other things so I could care for my husband. And when I feared I might not make my writing deadline for the first time in my life, He gave me increased stamina, and stretched me as a writer, putting characters and scenes and plot lines together that actually made sense even though I was exhausted.

Nobody likes intrusions, especially when they arrive in the form of a life-threatening disease. But I’m clinging to the One who knows the end from the beginning, the One who carries me when I have no more strength to put one foot in front of another, the One who is closer than my own breath.

Posted in cancer journey, deadlines, Finding time to write, intrusions on time, Not enough time, scheduling, unwelcomed intrusions | Leave a comment


Brainstorming a new story is always fun, especially when the characters jump off the page, shake my hand and introduce themselves, and then proceed to tell me their entire life history. After a couple of cups of coffee, I feel like I’ve known these people all my life. I know what makes them smile and what tears their heart in two, their favorite food, whether they are right or left-handed, the trick they played on their teacher in the third grade, and the secret they pray nobody knows. I know their innermost thoughts.  When a new story idea takes wing and the characters invite me along for the ride, and they act like tour guides along the way–yes, that is a writer’s dream.

Then there are those “other” people.

I’m not talking about the minor characters or the wallpaper characters. No, I’m referring to a new story idea where the plot threads materialize, the circumstantial twists pull a wicked smile onto my face, but the main characters cloak themselves in mystery. It’s as if they are playing hide and seek, and they’re really good at it. How do I coax them out of hiding and get them to play nicely with me?

Brainstorming isn’t just for story ideas, because you can’t have a story if you don’t have characters to tell it. More often than not, the plot rolls out for me before the characters do, and I have to wait until they decide they want to become real people. Only then can I cajole them into sharing their goals and motivations, as well as their fears and those things for which they dare not hope.

So how does an author lure her characters out of hiding? I can only speak for myself, but I usually start by asking questions:
What is in this character’s past he/she hopes will never be made public?

Is there a family secret?

Does this character have an unfulfilled dream?

Are there ill feelings between this character and someone else?

What does this character want more than anything?

Are circumstances such that they might never see their desire materialize?

Who or what is preventing them from accomplishing their goal?

What is the biggest emotional struggle this character faces?

What is the hardest lesson this character has yet to learn?

If I tread in the wrong direction with my answers, my characters can’t resist jumping out of their hiding places and setting me straight. I remember having an argument one time with one of my characters who wanted to throw a plot twist into the story I had not planned, nor had I written it into the synopsis. After trying to reason with the guy (his name was Everett) he finally won out and I tweaked the story line to include “his idea.” I learned something from that argument–Always listen to my characters. They know their own story better than I do.

I’ve learned something else over the years. When my characters play hard to get, when they are shy about sharing who they are or anything about their past, it generally means I haven’t spent enough time trying to get to know them. One of the main things I keep in mind: I am not the one telling this story. It’s their story. Let them tell it.


Posted in Brainstorming characters, creating characters, fictional characters, historical fiction, minor characters, Research for fiction, secondary characters, seeking, unexpected plot twists | Leave a comment


Our pastor made an observation that, I must admit, took me by surprise when he first said it. We’ve enjoyed singing Christmas carols, and a favorite of many people is O Come All Ye Faithful. The chorus repeats three times: O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him.

But Pastor Chris pointed out that many of us–even those who claim faith in Christ–rush through our days with a mindset that is more accurately phrased: O come, let us IGNORE Him. We use our busy schedules as an excuse, jobs, commuting, kids, to-do list, holiday events and preparations, shopping.  By the time we fall, exhausted, into bed at night, have we spent more than five minutes communicating with God that day? Have we immersed ourselves in His word? Have we contemplated how Jesus Christ left His throne of glory and came to earth to die for us? The image of the Baby in the manger might be endearing, but His destiny was a bloody cross to sacrifice Himself for me, to atone for my sin. But we are so caught up in “the holidays,” we barely take time to acknowledge Him. Consider this: would you like to be ignored on your birthday?

So Pastor Chris encouraged: O come, let us EXPLORE Him. Merriam-Webster’s definition of “explore” is this:  to investigate, study, or analyze; To look into; to become familiar with by testing; to examine deeply or minutely for diagnostic purpose;  to make or conduct a systematic search. I wish I could say I study God’s word deeply and minutely, or search its pages systematically. But exploring who Jesus Christ is requires becoming familiar with His voice and His heart as reflected in His word. I can only do that by saturating myself in the love letter He wrote to us.

Several years ago, I stopped making new year’s resolutions, and instead adopted the practice of focusing on one word to steer my habits and thoughts during the course of the year. Some days I did better than other days, but for the most part, I feel God used this practice to teach me to recognize His will, and grow me as His child. I used words like: Trust, Peace, Serve, and Persevere. I believe “my word” for 2017 is going to be EXPLORE.

O come, let us EXPLORE Him. How can we truly adore Him without studying and becoming familiar with His word?

O come, let us EXPLORE Him. Conduct a search. Test Him, diagnose what He has to say in His word.

O come, let us EXPLORE Him. Seek Him, pursue Him, satisfy your appetite by feasting on His word. Embrace the comfort and direction He offers through His word.

O come, let us EXPLORE Him.

Posted in Explore, holiday planning, holidays, new year's resolutions, seeking | Tagged | 1 Comment


As excited as I am when a new book releases, I am every bit as excited when my publisher releases some of my previous books as a three-in-one repack.

Okay, I’m just a little over-the-moon giddy!

Rails To LoveNew:
In October, the RAILS TO LOVE Romance Collection will hit store shelves. All nine stories in this collection are historical and railroad-themed. My story, MY SOUL WAITS, was tons of fun to write. I created a heroine who grew up on a Wyoming ranch, and she balks when her father wants to send her east to spend time with her aunt and uncle and hoity-toity cousins, in the hopes that she will become a lady. She manages she get herself stranded mid-journey. Enter: the hero–a young man working for the railroad incognito, who is duty-bound to keep a secret.
It was such a privilege to be invited to participate in this collection with these wonderful authors: Amanda Cabot, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Diana Brandmeyer, Lisa Carter, Ramona Cecil, Lynn Coleman, Susie Dietze, and Liz Tolsma.

Brides of GAOld (well, sort of):
Turn a couple of calendar pages. In December, BRIDES OF GEORGIA releases. I’m so excited about this book! This is a three-in-one repack of my three Heartsong Presents novels that are set in the north Georgia mountains. The first story, HEART OF HONOR, is set in 1838 around the time of the Trail of Tears. The second story, HARVEST OF HOPE, is set in 1860, just before the outbreak of the War Between the States, and features the son of the hero and heroine from the first book. Story number three is HARBINGER OF HEALING, and is set in 1870, six years into Reconstruction. The hero in Harbinger of Healing is the brother of the heroine in Harvest of Hope, and has undergone a transformation as a result of the war.

I love these stories! They are rich in history, and feature my favorite place in the whole world–the mountains of north Georgia. But they are also threaded with life lessons God has taught me through past circumstances. Sometimes we wonder why God allows painful things to come into our lives, or we think perhaps He has forgotten us in the midst of our tears. But God never wastes a circumstance or a tear. If we attune our hearts to His voice, we will hear and understand what He is teaching us. Whether He wants us to learn a deeper level of trust or to have a more compassionate heart, those life lessons can and should only draw us closer to Him. It has been my privilege to use those bits of wisdom God has taught me, and give them to my fictional characters. The three stories in BRIDES OF GEORGIA are permeated with the things God whispered in my heart during an excruciating time in my life and the resulting grief. His faithfulness and grace, His comfort and peace carried me through that time. Those are the God-traits I tried to portray in these stories.

So watch the store shelves in October for RAILS TO LOVE, and in December for BRIDES OF GEORGIA. Pieces of my heart are hidden in the pages.



Posted in backdrop for characters, Brides of Georgia, conflicting emotions, creating characters, creating setting, fictional characters, Harbinger of Healing, historic details, historical fiction, New releases, north Georgia fiction, novella collection, Trail of Tears, War Between The States | Leave a comment


snoopy_dancingEver get unexpected news that makes you want to dance like happy Snoopy? I did. I recently learned that a trilogy I wrote a few years ago is being re-packaged into a three-in-one volume that will be entitled, BRIDES OF GEORGIA.

The three stories—Heart of Honor, Harvest of Hope, and Harbinger of Healing are set in the mountains of north Georgia and span four decades. Continue reading

Posted in Brides of Georgia, historical fiction, New Echota, new release, north Georgia fiction, old houses, Research for fiction, settings, Trail of Tears, War Between The States | Leave a comment


The bend in the roadHave you ever come upon a road with which you were unfamiliar and did not know where it led? Did you wonder what was around the bend in the road? How many times have you bypassed such a road, opting instead for the safety of an often-traveled route? Was it fun or mundane? Was it an adventure or was it predictable? Did it tease your senses or thrill your spirit?

Probably not. Continue reading

Posted in backdrop for characters, conflicting emotions, readers, unexpected plot twists, writing tools | Tagged | 1 Comment


In my last post I offered some suggestions for research sources, so in keeping with the research theme, I’d like to focus the spotlight a little tighter. While some of the best information can be gleaned from speaking directly with experts in a particular field, or interviewing local folks from the area in which your story is set, research books can be a gold mine of facts, as long as the author is well-qualified. Continue reading

Posted in character's occupations, creating setting, historic details, historical fiction, Research books, Research for fiction, writing tools | Leave a comment


studying___animation_by_naddi_san-d5gh3f3When you’re a writer, research is part of the job. But here is the thing: some writers would rather have root canal surgery than endure what they consider the drudgery of research. I, on the other hand, am one of those writers who forgets what time it is when I digging into historical journals or pursuing history.org websites. I love research. I love discovering fascinating details they never taught us in school, and then working those gold nuggets into my story. Continue reading

Posted in backdrop for characters, character's occupations, creating setting, historic details, historical fiction, Research for fiction, World War I, writing tools | Leave a comment


charactersWhen writers brainstorm a story, their focus is usually on the main characters—who are they, what are their goals and motivations, what makes them tick, where are they going, and how are they going to get there? But more often than not, there are minor characters who fill important roles as well. Without them, the story would lack pizzazz and punch. Continue reading

Posted in backdrop for characters, character photos, creating characters, creating setting, fictional characters, historical fiction, minor characters, names of fictional characters, point of view, secondary characters | Leave a comment

SETTING–a character in itself

One of the questions writers get asked the most—after “How do you come up with your story ideas?”—is, how does an author decide where to place a story. Recently, an email from my agent prompted me to consider that question in depth.

In the past, I have often created fictitious towns set in actual CC 003geographical regions for my stories. The main reason I do this is so I can give the town a regional flavor and a touch of real Americana, and use actual landmarks like a particular mountain range or a river. Mentioning actual historical events that occurred in that general area give the setting authenticity. But the town itself is up to me and my imagination, and I can set buildings and street corners any way I choose. I know I’ve done my job when a reader says, “I’d love to visit this place. Is it a real town?” Continue reading

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