Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Where to Begin

As hard as it was for me to find the right beginning for this post, the first chapter of a book makes me sweat even more.  Especially when that chapter will likely be available for free viewing on Amazon or through my publisher. The first taste of the book and the reader remains commitment free.

Even if you are pre-published and entering contests or sending queries, you know how all important that first chapter is - perhaps the only thing an agent or publisher will ever read of your work.

So where do you begin?

I thought I had picked a good spot in the "middle of the action" with my early drafts of The Scarlet Coat, my new release. Rachel, the heroine watched for the return of her father and brother after a Revolutionary War battle. She held up in an old fort with others from their small settlement, praying for the lives of her loved ones. Then someone sees the returning soldiers and everyone goes to meet them. Rachel's family isn't there so she panics and rides off to find them, pausing at home briefly to make sure they hadn't gone directly there.

Chapter two took her to the battlefield and the carnage of Oriskany where she makes a decision that changes her life forever.

This was an alright start, but I wasn't winning any contests or signing any contracts.

Next I tried cutting half of my first chapter and starting with Rachel at the cabin, knowing her father and brother hadn't returned and racing off to find them. I tacked chapter two onto the back of it.

Still not quite right.

Finally I tossed all of chapter one out the window. Now the sun was setting and our heroine was getting her first view of the battle field.

As soon as I'd made the change, I realised the original was all story set up - NOT story.

Was it painful to cut a full chapter?


Was there a lot of information that still I needed and had to place elsewhere?

Yes, but that was probably for the best.

Is my start much stronger?

I think so....and thankfully so did my publisher. ;)

What do you think?

    The last rays of sun faded into twilight, and the wind whispered through the trees, as if warning Rachel to turn back. She encouraged her pa’s stallion forward, though her pulse threatened to strangle her. Somewhere, not far away, a wolf wailed into the night. The mournful song resonated within her, bespeaking tragedy. She searched the deepening shadows of the forest. What if all the British hadn’t retreated? What if there were still Indians and Tories out there, waiting behind those trees?
     Something unseen rustled the leaves, and a twig snapped. Lord, what am I doing? How would she even find them out here in the dark? Maybe she should go home or to the Reids’ for another night.
     Her course of action seemed so clear when General Herkimer, and what remained of his regiment and the local militia, limped their way alongside the Mohawk River from Oriskany. The general lay on a stretcher, his leg below the knee wrapped in a crimson cloth, his face pale and expressionless—like so many of the men with him. Eight hundred had marched north the day before yesterday and barely half returned.
     Her pa and brother were not among them.
 Stay with the Reids. That was all Pa had asked of her. Benjamin Reid’s bad leg compelled him to remain behind and watch over their farms. Though the safest place for her, Rachel could no longer wait there trying to carry on a casual conversation with any of the Reid girls or hide behind her mother’s Bible. She couldn’t abide the confines of their snug cabin a minute longer without knowing her own family’s fate. Since losing Mama to illness two years ago, Pa and Joseph were all she had. She couldn’t lose them, too. But she’d ridden for hours now. Where was she?
    A little farther along the trail, the wind shifted slightly, carrying on it the odor of burnt powder and blood. Battle. Rachel’s hand came to her stomach in an attempt to calm the sickness churning within.
The horse whinnied, shifting as he tossed his head.
     “Whoa. Easy, Hunter.” She slid to the ground and surveyed her surroundings. Both sides of the road were heavily treed and thick with underbrush. Even still, she could make out the dark forms of fallen men. She stumbled over her feet but kept moving. “Joseph! Pa!” You can’t be dead.
     Dragging the horse, Rachel ran. Each step constricted her throat until she could hardly breathe. Bodies littered the road—Indian, Tory, and American alike. She maneuvered around them, searching faces in the faint glow of the remaining light. She should have brought a lantern.
     The road sloped downward into a deep ravine. Her feet faltered. Hundreds of men—a patchwork of blue and homespun. All motionless. All dead. If only she could close her eyes or turn away, but every muscle held her in place.
     The rasp of a voice jolted her from the trance. She yelped and spun toward the intruder.
     “Rachel?” The murmur of her name accompanied the form of a man emerging from the trees. “What are you doing here?”

To finish reading the first chapter pop by Colonial Quills, or find on Amazon.

I still find it hard to write the first chapter of a book, but now I consider these three things when plotting those first few paragraphs:
  1. Is this where the story really begins? I often begin books thinking "of course this is where the action and story and EVERYTHING begins, only to find out that, nope, this is still too early. The start of a story should have an element of change to it--what is about to change in your protagonist's life and propel them another 100-400 pages?
  2. Is this necessary? If there is information I want included, is it necessary to include it now? Or can the reader be on a "need to know" basis? There is so much information you need to feed into that first paragraph and that first chapter while setting the scene and the tone and introducing the characters - try to leave out anything not absolutely necessary until later. Characters are allowed some secrets and some mystery. Often the things that keep the pages turning is what hasn't been told.
  3. Is it gripping? The information may be important, but if it's not going to keep the reader's interest, what will compel them to keep reading? The first few pages need to grab the reader's attention and hold on tight. You might keep a outdoor enthusiast captivated by all the details of mackerel fishing, but the average person doesn't pick up a novel to be be taught. They want to be entertained. Learning is a happy side effect of a great book. 

These are just some of my thoughts. I am interested to hear yours. What do you look for in a great beginning? 

To keep from freezing in the Great White North, Angela K Couch cuddles under quilts with her laptop. Winning short story contests, being a semi-finalist in ACFW’s Genesis Contest, and a finalist in the International Digital Awards also helped warm her up. As a passionate believer in Christ, her faith permeates the stories she tells. Her martial arts training, experience with horses, and appreciation for good romance sneak in there, as well. When not writing, she stays fit (and warm) by chasing after three munchkins. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Janice L. Dick

I’ve been long obsessed with living the writing life, with being a writer. I’ve read books by writers such as Annie Dillard, Stephen King, William Zinsser and others, and have picked up on some of their ideas. I’ve tried to insulate myself from real life in order to dedicate myself more completely to my private writing world. It’s been a selfish attempt on my part, but it was the only way I knew to attack it.

Over the Christmas season, I had to put my writing aside for a time in order to concentrate on family, food and celebration. I enjoyed it, of course, but it was difficult to re-enter my writing world. I had no ideas, no passion, no enthusiasm. Had I not applied myself enough to my writing world? Had I been too long in the real world, neglecting my writing life?

My daughter, me, my mom
In my musings about this conundrum, I realized something: my real life is the one I need to live. My grandchildren, some living only a mile away, are growing quickly, and I want to spend more time with them. I need to keep up with my friends and the rest of my family. My 94-year old mother needs my attention. Even though her assisted living suite is lovely, she is a province away from her children and very lonely. We have a roomy house with only the two of us living in it, so we’ve invited her to move in with us.

What will happen to my writing life? I can’t say for sure, but I’m expecting it will be fine. As I move forward in my real life, investing myself in the lives of others, I find my motivation for writing more focused, my enthusiasm growing, and my ideas flowing. I don’t want to live in two worlds anymore.

One thing I know, I’ll certainly have more experiences to write about, and maybe I’ll learn to use my time more efficiently.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Small Beginnings

by Marion Ueckermann

January 11th saw the start of a new school year in South Africa. For our family, this year that particular day was pretty significant. Okay, awesomely significant! My oldest grandson, Phoenix, started school. Of course, this has caused another glut of photos on my cell phone, my son’s bank balance to diminish, and my Saturday alarm clock to be set far too early for this “not-a-morning-person” person.

The first repercussion from this I’m sure you’ll understand. I mean, who doesn’t want...need a gazillion first day of school photos; first cricket match; first play; first— I think you get the idea. In fact, most of you have probably been there, done that, and gotten the T-shirt in every size and color to prove it, too.

The second repercussion... Well, who even has a bank balance once their kids start school? Scrap that, once they’re born.

As for my Saturday alarm issue... Well Phoenix decided to start playing cricket—yes, all of not even seven years old. And they play matches EVERY Saturday, unless it’s raining. At 7.30 in the morning!

It was at this weekend's match as my husband and I were watching the boys play this gentleman’s sport, picking out who already displayed incredible talent at bowling, batting, and fielding at such a tender age, that my hubby said something which stood out to me . . .

One day some of these little chaps could be standing on the great pitches of our country. Maybe even the world. That thought made me think about my own writing career—where I was a decade ago, where I am today, and where, with hard work and developing my talent, I can be in the future. Just like these little cricketers. After all, the great writers of the world didn’t start out on international bookshelves. They started with that first word, written on a blank unknown piece of paper. Just like me.

MARION UECKERMANN's passion for writing was sparked when she moved to Ireland with her family. Her love of travel has influenced her contemporary inspirational romances set in novel places. Marion and her husband again live in South Africa, but with two gorgeous grandsons hanging their hats at the house next door, their empty nest's no longer so empty.

Visit Marion at

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Sunday, February 19, 2017


Coming Up This Week 


Marion Ueckermann: Small Beginnings


Janice Dick: Writing The Life


Angela Couch


Iola Goulton

Friday Devotion 

Lays Halawe


New Release

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense, Desert Secrets, will be a February 2017 release from Love Inspired Suspense.


Upcoming Releases

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense, Pursued, will be an April 2017 release from Revell.

Patricia Beal's debut contemporary women’s fiction set in Germany and in the United States, A Season to Dance, will be a May 2017 release from Bling! Romance / Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Sprouts of Love, Book 1 in her new Garden Grown Romance series (part of Arcadia Valley Romance multi-author series), releases independently in May 2017.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Promise of Peppermint, prequel to her Urban Farm Fresh Romance series, releases independently in July 2017.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Memories of Mist, Book 3 in her Urban Farm Fresh Romance series, releases independently in August 2017.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Better Than a Crown, Book 3 in her Christmas in Montana Romance series, releases independently in October 2017.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Rooted in Love, Book 2 in her new Garden Grown Romance series (part of Arcadia Valley Romance multi-author series) releases independently in November 2017.

To find more International Christian Fiction books, please visit our 2013 - 2016 Book Releases page and Backlist Titles.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Look! It's a flying Caterpillar!

We all know that Caterpillars can't really fly, but in this photo, this little guy is doing really well.

The truth is he is under-girded by an invisible force that makes it possible for him to do what he naturally can't. So just as my cars windscreen gives a flightless worm the appearance of having awesome super-powers, we too have an invisible force under-girding us. The best part is that what we have is so much more than just pretend. We have a supernatural God who possesses all the power in the universe.

So how about that thing that feels impossible to you now? Maybe it's getting a book published, finding a new job or getting over a heartbreak. Whatever it is, you can rest knowing that carrying you through the impossible is God's love and supernatural grace will carry you.

He is the invisible One who makes all things possible and He loves you more than you could ever imagine.

Dianne J. Wilson writes novels from her hometown in East London, South Africa, where she lives with her husband and three daughters. She is neck-deep in a three book contract for a YA series, Spirit Walker, with Pelican / Watershed.

Finding Mia is available from AmazonPelican / Harbourlight, Barnes & Noble and other bookstores.

Shackles is available as a free ebook from Amazon & Smashwords.

Find her on FacebookTwitter and her sporadic blog Doodles.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Best of the ICFW Archives: Thoughts from a flexible plotter

By Lisa Harris

In writing fiction, writers typically divide themselves into two camps: Plotters and pansters. Personally, I’ve always found it interesting to learn how other writers plot (or don’t plot) and put their stories together.

Here is a quick definition of the two ‘camps.’

Plotters need structure when they write. They usually use outlines or charts, chapter by chapter summaries, or at a minimum an understanding of the beginning, middle, and end before they start to write.

Panters might begin with just a single scene that intrigues them. They need to have a freedom in their writing which might mean not knowing the ending, or simply writing as they go.

Figuring out how YOU best write is key as you jump into a new project. For myself, I’ve come to realize that I am a flexible plotter. I use an outline because my plots are usually pretty complicated, but that doesn’t mean I know everything up front. There are always a lot of surprises along the way.

Read more at the following link:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

New Car Blessing?

By Carolyn Miller

We recently bought a New Car. A brand spanker. New. Car. Complete with New Car smell. And New Car gadgets and gizmos, like CarPlay and Siri-like phone connectivity!

We’ve been needing to upgrade for ages, as our four children are only getting bigger and couldn’t fit in the third row too well, and our previous 4WD – though it had a great engine, enabling smug smiles as we sailed past less grunty beasts - was over 12 years old.

I should have been thrilled, driving it from the New Car lot. And I was excited. Except…

The New Car doesn’t have a CD player.

Now, I know most people entered the 21st Century long before me and have been using MP3s and Bluetooth and Apple Play for ages, but I’m a little technologically averse. I write Regency-era fiction, stories set in Jane Austen’s day (my debut novel releases at the end of this month!).

It hurts my brain to try to deal with too much technical stuff. I like old things, vintage clothes, reading – and listening to - historical fiction. In the past few years I’ve built up a reasonable collection of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen audiobooks. On CD. And now we have a New Car (!). With no CD player.

I don’t know how many hours I spent trying to download the CDs to my computer, renaming tracks, putting it on my USB, only to put the USB in the New Car to find it didn’t read it. Then I spent hours trying to figure out how to reformat the USB then redo the song formatting so it met their standards. Only to find it played the songs out of order. I later found out this was nothing new (yay, Apple!), but you can imagine the frustration.

I wanted to enjoy my New Car. But I was stuck on this one thing. I couldn’t play my audiobooks. (Later, much later, I finally conceded and transferred the audiobooks to my phone – that’s a whole other story!)

My point is this: how easy is it to be blind to the blessings by focusing on the one thing deemed non-blessing. 

How easy is it to stress and forget God’s past deliverance and promises for the future by letting something minor become too major.

I have some friends who have taken on the gratitude challenge, finding things to be thankful for each day. I’ve enjoyed seeing their posts as it reminds me to do the same. To pause and reflect. To appreciate God’s goodness. To be thankful.

So I’ll be thankful. I do so appreciate my New Car. 

I appreciate God for the right sale happening at the right time when we could justify it - I know new cars won’t happen frequently in our lives. I appreciate the gadgets, the extra leg space, the lack of clunk as we round corners, the door that closes properly instead of catching on trim, the shiny gleam (that won’t last in Aussie Summer dust!), the ability to call my husband’s phone without having to lift a finger.

And I appreciate the lessons learned. I’ve learned a lot about what NOT to do on my Mac. I appreciate the opportunity to clear out hard drive-sucking apps and junk. I also have fresh appreciation for those who DO know about this technical technology. God bless them!

And God bless us, as we focus on Him and His word, counting our blessings – naming them one by one, if necessary! – as we live in His grace, surprised and filled with gratitude for what the Lord has done.

About Carolyn Miller

Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. A longtime lover of romance, especially that of the Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. She is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. Her Regency novel 'The Elusive Miss Ellison' will be published in the US by Kregel in February 2017, and is available for pre-order on, CBD, Barnes & Noble and Book Depository

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