Seekerville: The Journey Continues


Seekerville: The Journey Continues

Pam's Rocket-Launch into Children's Picture Books

Pam's Rocket-Launch into Children's Picture Books

I self-published my first children’s picture book on November 1st and am working on a second one. I never planned to write children’s books, but one thing rocketed to another and here I am. The story…

On October 8th, I was at a local festival selling my books. I’ve had a booth at Sebastopolooza every year since my first print novel released. I enjoy meeting new and existing fans, and even lots of friends and family who aren’t readers stop by to say hi. It’s like one big family reunion.

Pam's Rocket-Launch into Children's Picture Books

In the lull between chatting with friends and selling books, I watched shoppers as they visited other booths, wondering what made them gravitate to different things like homemade soaps, jewelry, clothes, wooden plaques, and the list goes on.

The thought meandered through my head that maybe I should add something to my booth that people could buy even if they aren’t avid readers. Nothing too drastic … like homemade goat’s soap! But maybe t-shirts with writerly sayings on them, or journals. It was just a passing thought, because just as quickly as I pondered the idea, I also realized that diversification without cohesion would only dilute my purpose: growing my fan base and my name recognition as an author.

Moving forward. Three days later, I took my granddaughter to gymnastics. It was a beautiful Tuesday afternoon, so I sat outside with her 18 month old brother and soon a homeschool mom and her son joined us. Her 9 yo son was using an old iPhone to turn quick recordings into fun little videos. It’s no secret that I enjoy a bit of digital graphics, so we started chatting about digital art, memes, apps that create cartoon-like characters, videos, podcasts, etc. Before we knew it, we were swapping ideas, and as we chatted, a lightbulb went on. Or rather a whole smorgasbord of strobe lights starting pinging.

Since I’m not an illustrator, could I use an “AI” app to turn photos into “cartoon-like” illustrations for a children’s book?

  • Could I write a children’s picture book?
  • What would it be about?
  • Could I self-publish it on kdp?
  • Could I do a print version on kdp?
  • Could I….

The thoughts ping-ponged around inside my head. I felt confident I could write rhyming prose, and I was pretty sure I could muddle through the publishing process since I’ve already published several ebooks through kdp. But the illustrations were the key, since … and I repeat … I’m not an illustrator. But I had a vision of what I wanted.

Two things happened simultaneously over the next three days: I played around with AI apps until I found one that would do exactly what I wanted: turn an existing photo into a cartoon look-alike. At the same time, My Cowboy took three of our grandchildren on a “big adventure” and came back with a ton of cute photos. I had my first idea for a children’s book.

The ebook version of Adventures with Cowpaw came out on November 1st. The print version released on November 6th, and that was only because I had to wait for a proof to arrive. Since this was my first attempt at self-publishing anything in print, I was a bit nervous about the print quality. Nothing to worry about. I was very pleased with the quality from Amazon's print department.

I went into this adventure with two goals in mind. I wanted to learn how to create and publish print books and starting with a children’s book seemed the perfect “small” project for that. I had no idea if people would want copies of my little book with its non-traditional illustrations, but since it was mainly for Cowpaw and the grandkids, I wasn’t worried about how it might sell, as long as I was pleased with the result. 

I ran out of copies at my first local book signing and had to order more! And Adventures with Cowpaw has been my top-selling book on Amazon since its release. Kind of a wow moment.

With what I’d learned about producing print books via kdp, I was then brave enough to self-publish my first adult print book on Amazon as well. Within the first two weeks of November, I moved forward with a project that I’d been too “chicken” to pursue until now. I formatted 3 existing novellas that were already published as ebooks, designed a cover, and published my Calico Trails Romance Collection in both ebook and print.

Pam's Rocket-Launch into Children's Picture Books
Amazon link to Calico Trails

Looking back, I’m amazed at the TWO-WEEK timeline of producing my first children’s book from start to finish. The entire process has been a fun rollercoaster ride and I’m thrilled to have some new skills in my writer’s toolkit as well as something new and different for readers and non-reader friends to share with their children and grandchildren.

Writing with Joy


 Hello everyone. Cate here. I want to talk about some wonderful writing advice today. Writing with Joy!


I love to listen to authors talk about writing. 

One of the few benefits that came out of the pandemic was the plethora of opportunities to see authors interviewed online. Many bookstores, libraries, authors or groups of authors started doing FB Live series or You Tube series. I'd be lying if I said I haven't spent more than a few (hundred?) hours down the YouTube rabbit hole hopping from one interview to another. 

Several of those interviews were with #1 NY Times Bestselling author Louise Penny. If you've never had the chance to listen to her speak, I highly recommend you give it a try. I'd never read any of her Inspector Gamache books before, but I was so intrigued by her that I pulled Still Life out of my TBR pile.


But that's not what I wanted to share. I wanted to share some advice she gave in several of the interviews I watched. 

The background is that following a career in journalism, and an unsuccessful attempt to write a novel accompanied by a case of writer's block, Ms. Penny took stock of what was in her TBR pile and realized she was quite fond of crime novels. So she made the decision to try her hand at that. I think that's probably not unlike the way many of us ventured into the genres we write in.

 But it was what came next that I want to share today. Her agent got her a 3 book deal. That meant she had to write the second book in a year. Fearing a recurrence of writer's block, she saw a therapist. It is that therapist's advise that Ms. Penny so willingly passes along "for what it's worth to emerging writers." I daresay any writer would find it worth a listen.

Her therapist told her that the problem was "The wrong person is writing the book. Your critic is writing the book."

That really struck a nerve with me, because I am my own worst enemy each time I start a book. That imposter syndrome takes over, and I wonder why I ever thought I could do this. Yes, my critic is writing the book - or more aptly, she is preventing me from writing it.

So, this is the advice, per Ms. Penny's therapist:

"You need to thank the critic. You need to bless the critic. You need to show the critic the door!"

I love that! It feels so proactive.

She warns not to be mean to the critic, don't lock the door, because the time will come that you need that voice, need that inner critic. But for now, (and this part is from Louise Penny) "our creative soul... needs the freedom to write ...with freedom, with gratitude that you have food in the fridge and no one is trying to kill you. Just write." And, she said, that is what she does now with the first draft, and she recommends we do the same - write with joy.

It sounds so easy, and I know from experience it isn't. But it's worth fighting to reclaim that joy. If you also have a noisy inner critic, send her on vacation. And while she's gone, find that joy that made you first want to write. Find that inner joy that resonates when you are doing what you love. Forget the business (for that first draft) and write for the joy of creating.

And let me know how it goes.

I'd love to hear from you today. Is that inner critic stealing your joy, or are you stronger than that? Can you feel that joy of creating, taste the bliss of unleashing your dreams? Are you ready to show that critic the door?

This is not the interview I was quoting above, but she repeats the same advice here.

Photo by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash

Guest Blogger DeAnna Julie Dodson/Julianna Deering!

Erica here, happy to bring you a guest post by DeAnna Julie Dodson. We 'met' via literary agency boo boo. :) We are both represented by the same literary agency, and often, when an author has a book published, the agency receives some free copies of the books. Often they will keep one and mail the extra copies to the author to be used in promotion. Before Christmas, I received a package from the agency, thinking it was probably my latest release, Millstone of Doubt. Imagine my surprise when it was two copies of a lovely Christmas mystery by DeAnna Julie Dodson! 

A quick email to the agency confirmed that the office manager had accidently sent me the wrong books, and that mine had gone to DeAnna. After a brief discussion, we decided that we would do a book swap of one of the copies, and we would mail the other back to the correct author. It actually turned out to be quite fun, because DeAnna's book was delightful. It's called Away and in Danger, if you're interested, and it's available through Annie's Fiction

Anyway, I enjoyed it very much, and I asked DeAnna if she'd be willing to blog here with us today at Seekerville. (FYI, DeAnna also writes under the name Julianna Deering, and she's got a delicious series of mysteries set in England.)

Writing a Continuing Series

By DeAnna Julie Dodson

When you want to write a series on your own and you envision it involving more than two or three books, where do you start? Series characters have to be a little deeper than one-book characters, especially in a long series. In any story, you want the main character to learn and grow from his experiences, but series characters have to have qualities that will carry them through more than one book.

When I was writing my Drew Farthering Mysteries (under the pen name Julianna Deering), I had to create a main character that people would want more of after each adventure. He needed to be just a little larger than life, but far from perfect. He had to have something he wanted to achieve, he couldn’t take himself too seriously, and he had to be someone readers would want to spend time with again and again.

Since I was writing in part to pay tribute to the mystery writers I love (Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, and many others) and a number of classic mysteries and romantic comedies from 1930s Hollywood (The Thin Man series in particular) with a nod to P. G. Wodehouse, I made Drew my ideal amateur sleuth — very British, wealthy, educated, stalwart, determined to find the truth, and possessing a touch of humor to go with his logical mind. A reviewer once wrote that “if Jessica Fletcher and Bertie Wooster ever had a love child, it would be Drew Farthering.” Exactly what I’d hoped for!


Of course, being the series star, Drew had to have a cast of series characters to keep him company. I’ve always enjoyed the differences in language and customs between American and British people, so my first thought was to make his love interest, Madeline Parker, come from the United States. He finds she’s his equal in wit and determination and in her love of mystery novels and literature in general. Sidekick Nick Dennison went to Oxford along with Drew, but since he is the son of the family butler, their friendship causes some social friction among Drew’s high-society friends. The three of them, Drew, Madeline, and Nick, work together to solve mysteries and deal with the general ups and downs in life, and their different backgrounds and experiences help them accomplish more than they would be able to separately. Every series needs a basic “family unit,” and they’re the core of mine.

It’s a good idea to have some kind of theme for your series. There are a lot of series with cooking or crafting themes. Some have military or ex-military heroes or different types of law-enforcement officers. Some are animal themed or have supernatural or fantasy elements. I decided early on that Drew’s adventures would each be based on something literary. His first book, Rules of Murder, is based on Ronald Knox’s 1929 “Ten Commandments” for detective fiction (ruling out such things as surprise twins, more than one secret passage, etc.). The other books in the series have connections to Shakespeare, Gilbert and Sullivan, Jane Austen, Sherlock Holmes, and classic Russian novels. These are only a thread through each story, but they have some connection to the mystery along with highlighting my main characters’ love of reading.

Setting, it has been said, is also a character. What better setting for a series of 1930s English mysteries than the quaint village and the old family manor in the English countryside? Whatever theme you choose for your series, it’s important to have a setting that supports and enhances it. Ideally, it reflects something about the main character and his own life, too.

Of course, again like series television, part of what keeps readers engaged throughout a series is the development of the main characters over all of the books. They enjoy getting to know these people, and they want to be emotionally involved in their lives. I’ve found that one of the worst things a series writer can do is leave a main character’s personal quest unfulfilled by the time a series is over. Readers want that closure, no matter what it is. On the other hand, they do not want the actual mystery in a particular book to go unsolved until the next book or, worse, even beyond that.

Every one of Drew’s adventures has a main mystery that arises and is solved in that book. But he also has something he wants to find out about himself that covers the whole series, sometimes in very small ways, sometimes in major ones. Like the romance between Drew and Madeline, it has its own arc starting in Book One. Including longer series arcs gives your characters a touch of reality. It helps your readers believe these people exist outside of the portion of their lives contained in the books. The more real the characters are, the more readers care about them, and getting readers to care about your story and the people in it is a great way to keep them coming back for more.

About DeAnna/Julianna

DeAnna has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage.
  This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity.  A fifth-generation Texan and graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats and, when not writing, spends her free time quilting, cross stitching and watching NHL hockey.  Her first books, In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, are a trilogy of medieval romances.  She has also written several contemporary mysteries for Annie's Attic and Guideposts.  And, writing as Julianna Deering, she is the author of a series of 1930s English cozies, The Drew Farthering Mysteries from Bethany House: Rules of Murder (2013), Death by the Book and Murder at the Mikado (2014), Dressed for Death (2016), and Murder on the Moor and Death at Thorburn Hall (2017).  She is currently represented by Wendy Lawton of the Books & Such Literary Agency (  

You can visit DeAnna's website by clicking HERE. 

You can find and purchase DeAnna's books HERE.

Thank you so much, DeAnna, for guesting here at Seekerville today, and thank you for this fascinating look into creating characters for a continuity series. I'm so glad we had a 'happy accident' with our books being mailed to each other.

Ready, Set, Retreat!

Erica here, coming to you from the very frosty, snowy north. 

Did you know that I love a good writer's retreat? And that I try to get in several during the year? Not only because of the social aspect, but because writing retreats WORK for me.

I am productive on writing retreats. I get right up to the coal face and get to work when I'm on a writing retreat. My theory is, I need to be productive if I'm going to spend the money to go on a retreat. I must have something to show for it. 

I usually have a goal in mind before I go of what I want to accomplish, which is most often a certain word count. Sometimes, if the retreat and edits hit at the same time, it's to accomplish edits, but most of the time it's writing new words. 

A good retreat for me means I average about 5K-8K words per writing day. But those words don't just happen by accident. I prepare for a retreat in advance to maximize my productivity. Here are a few tips that might work for you on your next writing getaway:

1. Have your story firmly plotted (if you're a plotter like me). Know where you're going and do a bit of scene visualization, planning ahead, and have several scenes mapped out so when it comes time to write, you're not wondering where to go.

2. Give yourself permission to write fast, not perfect. You cannot edit a blank page, and you cannot take the time to be precise and perfect if you're aiming for a big word count. Use Track Changes/comments to your advantage if you write something that you know is going to need a revision. Mark it in the margin to go back and fix later.

3. Don't stop to research or verify. Do that in advance if you know what you need to read up on, but while you're writing at the retreat, use the comments in the margins. "Find out the price of butter in 1816 London." If you jump online to find out, you will fall down the rabbit hole of interesting things, and then poof, you've lost 45 minutes of valuable writing time.

4. Turn off the internet during your writing sessions. I know, this is hard, but you will be so much more productive if you aren't tempted to check email, facebook, twitter, Tik Tok, or whatever other thing that you can escape into rather than write that difficult scene.

5. Work in time to socialize with your friends. Maybe you say, "We'll write for one hour, no breaks, then chat for ten minutes while we get up and move around a bit." Or perhaps your social time will come over dinner. I've been to some great retreats where everyone wrote during the day, laughed and talked over dinner, and then took turns brainstorming story ideas in the evening.

Ready, Set, Retreat!
Mary writing away on her WIP while
Jane looks on. Jane is also excellent
on writing retreats. :)

This last weekend, Mary Connealy and I had a hastily-arranged getaway to the snowy wilds of Iowa. We met halfway between our two homes for four days, and wrote on our WIPs. Mary is super easy to retreat with, as she has no problem writing for hours on end, and she is not offended if I work on my story in complete silence either. Not that we don't gab our heads off during the breaks. So much so that my voice was giving out on the first night and needed a rest. 

It all came together so quickly. I texted Mary that I missed her, and asked when I would see her next...and she replied "How about next week?" and whooosh! We had an Airbnb booked! Then of course, we got a humdinger of a snowstorm the night before we were supposed to travel. The roads weren't too bad for most of my trip, but then they weren't good at all! Yikes! 

Ready, Set, Retreat!
I'm so awful at taking selfies, but
it's the memories made that count!

When we do a writing retreat together, there are a couple of MUST HAVEs. 

a) Diet Coke. This is a thing. Even though I usually drink tea when I write, on a retreat with Mary, Diet Coke is a must.

b) Easy food prep. Neither of us are Michelin Star Chefs, nor are we gourmands. We have simple breakfasts, sandwiches for lunch, and we go out for dinner. Or, if we're feeling particularly productive and don't want to take time out from writing, we order a pizza. 

c) Space. I need a desk or table to write at, and Mary writes in a recliner or on a couch. While I suppose we could make it work in a hotel room, our retreats go better when we have a bit more space to spread out.

Question for you: Have you ever been on a retreat for writing or crafting or some other activity? Do you have any tips for making a profitable, productive time?

As an FYI, Millstone of Doubt, book 2 in the Thorndike & Swann Regency Mystery series is currently HALF OFF in audio form. If you like audio books, now is a great time to grab a copy! You can get yours by using THIS LINK

Regency London's detective duo is back on a new case--and this one is going to be a killer

Caught in the explosion of the Hammersmith Mill in London, Bow Street Runner Daniel Swann rushes to help any survivors only to find the mill's owner dead of an apparent gunshot.

Even though the owner's daughter, Agatha Montgomery, mourns his death, it seems there are more than a few people with motive for murder. But Daniel can't take this investigation slow and steady. Instead, he must dig through all the suspects as quickly as he can, because the clock is ticking until his mysterious patronage--and his job as a runner--comes to an abrupt and painful end. It seems to Daniel that, like his earthly father, his heavenly Father has abandoned him to the fates.

Lady Juliette Thorndike is Agatha's bosom friend and has the inside knowledge of the wealthy London ton to be invaluable to Daniel. She should be in a perfect position to help with the case. Still, her instructor in the art of spy craft orders her to stay out of the investigation. But circumstances intervene, dropping her into the middle of the deadly pursuit.

When a dreadful accident ends in another death on the mill floor, Daniel discovers a connection to his murder case--and to his own secret past. Now he and Juliette are in a race to find the killer before his time runs out.

Ready, Set, Retreat!
Best-selling, award-winning author, Erica Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum. You can connect with her at her website, where you can learn about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at where she spends way too much time!

Sunday Scripture & Prayer Requests

Sunday Scripture & Prayer Requests
The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew, 1603/1606, Caravaggio, England. [PD-US]

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested,

he withdrew to Galilee.
He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea,
in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,
that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet
might be fulfilled:
Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles,
the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.
He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father
and followed him.
He went around all of Galilee,
teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness among the people.

Matthew 4:12-23

During this week of Prayer for Christian Unity, let's pray with Christians around the world that we all may be one.

The following is from their website (

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Jan 18-25

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has a history of over 100 years , in which Christians around the world have taken part in an octave of prayer for visible Christian unity.  By annually observing the WPCU, Christians move toward the fulfillment of Jesus' prayer at the Last Supper "that they all may be one."  (cf. John 17:21) 


The Seekerville bloggers are praying for YOU and for our entire blog community. If you have any special intentions that need additional prayer coverage, leave a request for prayer in the comment section below. 

Please pray for our country and for an end to the problems that plague us at this current time, such as the increased cost of fuel and food and the rise in crime.

Also, please join us in praying for the protection of our military and for law enforcement officers and border agents.   

We are so grateful for all of you—for your friendship and your support! 

God bless you and keep you safe.   

Weekend Edition

Weekend Edition

Weekend Edition

If you are not familiar with our giveaway rules, take a minute to read them here. It keeps us all happy! All winners should send their name, address, and phone number to claim prizes.  Please send to If the winner does not contact us within two weeks, another winner may be selected. **(All winners' emails will receive a response within a week. If you do not receive an acknowledgement, we may not have received it. Please leave a comment in the following Weekend Edition.)

Monday: Jan Drexler offer advice on how to Write in Baby Bits

Tuesday: Pepper Basham talked about A World Within A Book and the winner for a copy of The Cairo Curse is Gena Bessire

Wednesday: Debby Giusti celebrated National Thesaurus Day with an informative blogpost about Peter Mark Roget, the physician and inventor who wrote the first thesaurus published in 1852.

Thursday: Winnie Griggs shared some wise words on how to Make a Fresh Start. Winners of a copy of her book A Tailor-Made Husband are Terry Lynn Schump, Sally Shupe and Connie Porter Saunders

Weekend Edition

Monday: Erica Vetsch will give you the lowdown on the uber fast writing retreat she just attended.

Tuesday: Guest DeAnna Julie Dodson will join us and share!

Wednesday: Cate Nolan is sharing some reflections on being part of the writing community.

Thursday: Pam Hillman will be talking about her first foray into publishing children's picture books.

Weekend Edition

Weekend Edition

Weekend Edition

Disclaimer: Any blog post that includes an offer of product purchase or service is NOT to be considered an endorsement by Seekerville or any of our authors
 (please see our Legal page )

Free Sweet and Clean Romance Giveaway thru January 31 by at BookFunnel

The Writing Escape by Mary Gillgannon at RMFW blog

6 Joys of Starting a New Writing Project by Bob Hostetler at Steve Laube agency

Does FOMO Rule Your Writing Life? by LA Sartor at An Indie Adventure

Marketing for Introverts by Hannah Currie at Learn How To Write A Novel

How to Write a Book from Start to Finish in 13 Steps by Angela Ackerman at Writers In The Storm

Call to Action: The Mega Power of Tiny Copy by Dean Mackenzie at Write To Done

Have You Created a Character or a Caricature? by Kristen Kieffer at Well-Storied

Writing Insecure Characters by Becca Puglisi at Writers Helping Writers

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Putting Your Best Foot Forward


Happy Thursday everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I was cleaning out an old file cabinet the other day and came across an article from the company magazine of a place where I used to work. It was titled Some Suggestions to Make a Fresh Start on the Job.  I’m not sure why I held on to it – I haven’t had a regular day job for over a dozen years so it’s at least that old. And it was really just a list of bullet points. But as I glanced over the article I thought, with a bit of tweaking and expansion, it might actually have some application to the writing life. So here is what I came up with.
(FYI - It was published in the month of September which is why you'll see several references to the start of a school year.)


  1. Look back over the past year and pick out one thing you would like to do better. Make it a priority to improve in that area.
    The takeaway for writers on this one is pretty obvious. The trick here is to take the time to do an honest assessment. What is an area for improvement that you can focus on? Is it in some area of craft like dialogue or pacing – dissect books that do it well to learn what works. Is it in marketing or promotion – find a class or mentor that can point you in the right direction. Is it in the area of work/life balance – set up a plan to address whatever issues you have with this. Whatever the area for improvement, proactively focus on finding a way to improve it. And you’ll get better results if you target one issue at a time rather than using a scattershot approach.

    Putting Your Best Foot Forward

  2. Establish a new habit of leaving for work earlier so you do not have to rush through traffic to make it on time. This will give you a safer and less stressful commute. 
    This one I related to respecting your deadlines. When you start a new project you normally have a deadline, either editor-imposed, project-imposed or self-imposed. Set intermediate goals at whatever level works for you and be mindful of them. To paraphrase the bullet point, pacing your writing with an eye toward deadlines will give you a less stressful writing experience.

  3. While driving, reduce your speed and increase your awareness now that school is back in session. Watch for school bus stops and children playing near schools.
    I related this one to focus. Protect your writing time and minimize your distractions, either those imposed by others or by your own procrastination. Turn off social media and limit research if possible. Find an environment that works for you and then jealously guard your scheduled time there.

  4. Plan your week’s work. Even if your work is organized by another and closely supervised, take advantage of the control you do have to arrange your workdays more effectively.
    This one is pretty easy to relate to writing. Having a plan, whether you plot it out on a daily, weekly, monthly or some other basis will definitely keep you feeling in control of the aspects of this business within your purview. But don’t just make a plan and forget it – make sure you check your progress against it on a regular basis and adjust as necessary.

  5. Clean up your workstation at the end of each shift. That way it will be ready for the next shift or for you again the next day. Put away tools, discard scrap and remove clutter. Arrange your station so you can start to work efficiently next shift.
    I know when you’re deep in the middle of looming deadline mode the last thing you’re thinking you have time for is cleaning up your work area. But if you make a habit of doing this at the end of your normal day-to-day writing sessions it’ll make coming back to your workspace more pleasant and will lend to the feeling of being organized and in control.

    Putting Your Best Foot Forward
  6. Consider going back to school yourself in your time off… Training in computer use or trades related to your work can help you do your job better or advance to another position. Adult education courses generally start later than the children’s school year, so you may still have time to sign up for a fall or winter semester. Don’t overlook the possibilities of learning at your public library or on the Internet.
    Of course we all want to keep learning our craft – after all there is always ways to sharpen our writing skills, even if it’s just to take refreshers on the basics. But in addition we should keep up to date on industry trends and changes. And look into tools that help make our life easier, either by automating some of our tasks or helping us in some area of craft, tracking or organizing. 

  7. Put safety first, always. Continue to learn about the hazards of your job and how to protect yourself and others.
    The work we do as writers is mostly sedentary which can be harmful to our health. Make sure you slot time into your schedule for breaks—even if it’s just to get up and move around for 5-10 minutes every hour or so. Stay hydrated and keep the unhealthy snacks to a minimum. And invest in setting up your workspace as ergonomically as you can.

  8. Consider some of the things you like about your job -- besides your paycheck -- when you plan your new priorities this fall.
    This one also translates well to the writing life. Since there is no guaranteed paycheck in what we do, the other things you like about writing need to be key components to keep you engaged. So what is it that brings you joy in your writing? Is it the need to share those wonderful stories and characters that live in your head? Or do you enjoy the company of other creatives? Or is it the challenge of developing an entertaining and engaging story that truly touches readers? Whatever it is, lean into it and focus on that aspect rather than monetary gain or in comparing your career trajectory with that of other writers.

There you have it, some tips for making this coming year a more focused and fulfilling one. Do you have some other items you’d add to this list? Did any of the above items speak to you more than the others?  Leave a comment and you’ll get your name in the hat for the giveaway noted below.


Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Harlequin has been gradually reverting the rights to some of my Love Inspired Historical books back to me and I’m repackaging and reissuing them as I can. I’ve also renamed the series from Texas Grooms to Turnabout Hearts.

In December I released His Christmas Matchmaker (formerly titled The Holiday Courtship) and on Jan 3rd I released Her Tailor-Made Husband (formerly titled A Tailor-Made Husband).

I still have several copies of these books under the old titles and with the older covers that I’d like to find a home for. So leave a comment to get your name in the hat for one of these.

Her Tailor-Made Husband

Putting Your Best Foot Forward
What she needed was a clean break. what she got was a fake engagement.

Hazel Andrews has been in love with Ward Gleason since she was an adolescent. Her admiration and attraction for him have only grown over the years as she sees his dedication and integrity in action. Ward, however, continues to see her as only a friend. Frustrated, Hazel decides it’s time for a change and accepts her aunt’s invitation to join her in New York. But fate has other plans…

Ward Gleason had to grow up quickly. Man of the house by age ten, he took on all the responsibilities of a grown-up, including guilt over a family tragedy. Now serving as sheriff, Ward is determined to do the people of Turnabout proud. When he finds an abandoned child, he knows he’ll need help caring for the five-year-old until her situation is resolved. Hazel seems the perfect person to watch little Meg during the day, but when he learns of Hazel’s plans to leave Texas, it’s more than disappointment that settles in Ward’s gut. Could his feelings toward Hazel have deepened without him realizing it?





National Thesaurus Day!

National Thesaurus Day!
By Debby Giusti

When I realized today was National Thesaurus Day, I reached for my copy of Roget’s International Thesaurus, blew off the dust and wondered why a favorite reference book had, over the last few years, been ignored on my office bookshelf. Flipping through the pages of my rather aged Fourth Edition advertised to contain 256,000 words and phrases, I had a renewed appreciation for the effort involved in creating such an outstanding tool for writers. Intrigued by a book that continues to be a reliable resource, I wanted to learn about the mastermind who had compiled the first thesaurus.

I found a short biography in my own edition that spurred me to dig deeper into the life of Peter Mark Roget, the physician and scholar-wordsmith who had compiled the first Thesaurus, a name taken from the Greek and Latin words meaning treasure. To attempt—and succeed—at such a huge endeavor (and doing so prior to computers) is a testament to Roget’s hard work and persistence as well as his keen intellect.

National Thesaurus Day!

Roget was born in London on this day in 1779. He entered the University of Edinburgh when he was fourteen, and graduated from medical school by the time he was nineteen. In 1805, he began to practice medicine at the Public Infirmary at Manchester and was soon heralded as not only a qualified physician but also an astute medical lecturer. Five years later, he moved to London and aided in the establishment of the Northern Dispensary, a charity clinic, where he cared, free of charge, for those in need.

Honors and accolades soon followed. He was known as an inventor, created a slide rule and was an avid chess player. At the age of 36, he was elected into the Royal Society, a fellowship of the most learned minds in math, engineering and medicine and served as its secretary for twenty-plus years. He wrote numerous papers on physiology and health, including an extensive study on the animal and plant kingdoms that was highly acclaimed in his day. Additionally, he penned articles for the Encyclopedia Britannica.

National Thesaurus Day!
Photo of Peter Roget, Roget's international
, Fourth Edition, Harper & Row, Publishers,
New York, 1977.

Although his achievements were numerous, Roget is remembered for his Thesaurus. Always a lover of language, at age twenty-six, he compiled a list of 15,000 words arranged by meaning that served as the initial draft of his later work. It was only after he retired from a prestigious career in medicine, that he resumed categorizing words and in four years had completed the manuscript.

Published in 1852, that first edition was titled Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, Classified and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition. The title explained the uniqueness of Roget’s work and how it could be used by writers in any discipline. The first edition was an instant success, and a second edition was published a year later, followed by a third edition in 1855.

Roget continued to add to and enhance many subsequent editions of his work. Before his death in 1869 at age ninety, he was revising the twenty-eighth printing of his thesaurus. His son John took over after Roget’s death, followed by his grandson and eventually Thomas Y Crowell who acquired access to the book in 1879.

National Thesaurus Day!
 Peter Roget's Preface to the First Edition,
Roget's international Thesaurus, Fourth Edition,
Harper & Row, Publishers,
New York, 1977.

Roget’s Thesaurus is not a dictionary, but rather, as the Publisher’s Preface in my thesaurus states, “a grouping of words according to ideas.” Roget divided his words and phrases into categories, such as Abstract Relations, Space, Physics and Matter. Just prior to publication, he added an alphabetized index in the appendix so readers could more easily find synonyms for specific words without having to sort through the various large groupings.

More than 40 million copies of Roget’s Thesaurus have sold over the years, and the book continues to be a valued reference for all wordsmiths. From now on, I’ll keep my copy close to my computer and am determined to use it when searching for that perfect word to enhance my writing. I’m grateful to Peter Mark Roget for the thesaurus he created—a storehouse of words and a treasure for all.

Do you have a thesaurus? Do you use it? What impressed you about Peter Roget?

Happy writing!

Wishing you abundant blessings,

Debby Giusti


National Thesaurus Day!


By Debby Giusti

An assassin’s loose in Amish country…and she’s not the only target.

When a radio broadcast describes taxi driver Lily Hudson’s passenger as an armed criminal, she becomes his immediate target. Narrowly escaping, Lily accepts Matthias Overholt’s offer to hide at his Amish family farm for Christmas—until evidence reveals the gunman’s plan is tied to Lily’s past. Now to prevent an assassination, Lily and Matthias must unravel a years-old conspiracy…and evade a sniper who has them in his sights.

Order HERE!






A World Within a Book

 (Long post warning...and giveaway) :)

A World Within a Book

A few months ago I just finished reading an Amelia Peabody book (again) and I am (again) completely captivated by the world Elizabeth Peters created. Now, I only picked it up as research for a book I wrote, but from the first chapter, I was drawn into the setting of Cairo and the arid environment in which Egyptologists and archeologists saturated themselves to uncover ancient relics.

Elizabeth Peters’ book was thick with a world I’d never experienced, but through her story, I traveled to Egypt, felt the busy-ness of Cairo’s streets, and even delved into an ancient mystery.

Last night, I finished reading Laura Frantz’s newest book, The Rose and the Thistle, and I got to traverse the beautiful world of lowlands Scotland (not too mention the darker and stinkier 18th century Edinburgh).

How did Laura and Elizabeth help me travel those places?

And how do we make that happen in our stories?

One of my favorite things in writing (besides developing characters! I LOVE creating characters!!) is helping my readers get a sense of place in the storyworld they’ve entered. I adore bringing the readers into Appalachia or Bath, England, or even my endearing made-up island of Skymar.

I could really write three separate posts on this issue, one on each of my points, but I’ll try to sum it up

1.     Know your setting

2.     Take the Organic Approach

3.     Move the senses

First things first, get to know your setting. Of course, this is for obvious reasons – if you don’t know your setting, how on earth are you going to describe it for others?

A World Within a Book

There are different ways to do this:

A.    Traveling to the places

B.    Massive research

C.    The Author’s own imagination

D.    Taking stories from others and fictionalizing them/or incorporating them into yours

E.     All of the above (or a mixture of a few)

E would be the usual answer 😉

It takes a blend of experiences, knowledge, and imagination to bring a setting to life in the best ways. But what do we need to know to impact the setting’s creation?

Oh goodness, I don’t have enough space here to go into all the possible information, but here are a few questions to ask while shaping your story world.

What does the place look like? (duh, right?)

What’s the mood of the place? How does it feel? – for example, in Lord of the Rings, Mordor has a very different “sense” and weather to it than the Shire. Even the weather sets a tone for the setting in those two places.

What sort of people live here? Is it a mix of cultures? Agrarian? A city? The smells, sounds, even the accents are going to be different, depending on what you choose.

What are the jobs in this setting? A fishing village by the sea is going to have a different style, flavor, and feeling than an upscale, city street. A rural area is going to give off a different vibe than a suburb – not only in what we see, but in what people wear, the way they talk to each other, and even the pace of life.

What traditions influence the setting and the people?

What is the history of this place? Has it been there a long time? Were there any significant historical events that took place there? Will these influence the setting of your story or the people within it?

How about the geography? Having an ocean nearby is going to create a different culture than being surrounded by mountains. In my book, The Heart of the Mountains, the culture of the Appalachian people – isolated within their mountains with limited options for making a living – are naturally prone to developing and drinking alcohol because the nature of their environment sets them up for it. So then, how will this ‘culture’ impact my story?

The creation of a world comes from a big pot of possibilities, and each author attempts to evoke a reader’s imagination in different ways.

Second (and as important as the first) take an organic approach to revealing your setting

A World Within a Book
This may seem a no-brainer, but it’s definitely a shift in writing styles from the 1800s to now 😊Charles Dickens could spend an entire page describing a cobblestone sidewalk, but readers nowadays are going to skim over that type of intensive detail.

You do NOT have to tell everything you know about this setting in your book. In fact, please DON’T!! Highlight the best partsof your setting to build a sense of place, but not bog down your readers with details. Make the important stuff count.

The best way to do this is weave the setting into the action of the story, not use it as bookends to a page.

Master storyteller, Jerry Jenkins gives these two examples:

London in the 1860s was a cold, damp, foggy city crisscrossed with cobblestone streets and pedestrians carefully dodging the droppings of steeds that pulled all manner of public conveyance. One such pedestrian was Lucy Knight, a beautiful, young, unattached woman in a hurry to get to Piccadilly Circus. An eligible bachelor had asked her to meet him there.

I get the sense of setting, don you? It works, right?

But…Jenkins gives us an even BETTER way 😊

London’s West End, 1862

Lucy Knight mince-stepped around clumps of horse dung as she hurried toward Regent Street. Must not be late, she told herself. What would he think?

She carefully navigated the cobblestones as she crossed to hail a Hansom Cab – which she preferred for its low center of gravity and smooth turning. Lucy did not want to appear as if she’d been toseed about in a carriage, especially tonight.

“Not wearin’ a ring, I see,” the driver said as she boarded.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Nice lookin’ lady like yourself out alone after dark in the cold fog…”

“You needn’t worry about me, sir. I’m only going to the circus.”

“Picadilly, it is, Ma’am.”

Do we still get the same sense of setting? Yes, but we ALSO experience the story moving forward AND we get a little character introduction along with a tinge of suspense for icing on the cake.

Now there is nothing wrong with beautiful prose and descriptions, but they need to have meaningfor your story, not just be words on a page, so they don’t feel like a list of details. Also, if you’re going to give a longer, meaningful description, try to alternate it with some action or dialogue.

A World Within a Book

Thirdly, don’t forget the five senses.

When describing your setting, find ways to incorporate various types of senses so that the reader can experience the environment too. Of course, there’s an emotional feeling the setting can create, but there’s also sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. We usually don’t use them all at one time in a description, but it’s fun and interesting to try and find different ways to use them throughout the story.

Here’s an example from my novel, Laurel's Dream(a descriptive paragraph set within the center of a chapter).

Laurel hesitated only a second longer before she headed out the door and down the steep mountain path toward the church schoolhouse. The trees were only beginning to shift into autumn colors, with hickory and beech displaying their golden glints first. She breathed in the earth’s fragrance, still fresh from morning rain, a mixture of wild rose and moss. Sunlight created a patchwork against the leafy trail as it slit through the mature forest and led the way down the mountain. Small glimpses of horizon showed between the trees and offered an endless view to uncharted lands of colleges and city streets and millions of other things she’d only seen through the pages of books.

The important things about incorporating the senses is to keep it organic and relevant to the rest of the story.

As we need to do with almost everything else in story 😊

What are some books you’ve read lately that really took you to a different place? Where did you visit? 

Leave your answer in the comments below for a chance to win a paperback copy of my upcoming release, The Cairo Curse (U.S. entrants only).


A World Within a Book

Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance “peppered” with grace and humor. Writing both historical and contemporary novels, she loves to incorporate her native Appalachian culture and/or her unabashed adoration of the UK into her stories. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she is a wife, mom to five great kids, a speech-language pathologist, and a lover of chocolate, jazz, hats, and Jesus. Her novel, Hope Between the Pages, was a finalist for the prestigious Christy award. Pepper loves connecting with readers and other authors through social media outlets like Facebook &

You can learn more about Pepper and her books on her website at

Writing in Baby Bits


Writing in Baby Bits

Have you ever had one of those days weeks months?

Here we are on the third Monday of January. In November I had my new year planned with plenty of time for writing along with my usual volunteer activities. Throw in a doctor’s appointment or two and some expected minor surgery, and my winter plans were complete.

But NOTHING has gone the way I planned so far!

It all started with my summons for jury duty…and I was selected to serve on a jury for a criminal case that is expected to last four weeks or more. So every day I show up at the courthouse, listen to testimonies and cross-examinations, and then go home exhausted and heart-sore from the tough testimony I’ve heard. Then I try to keep the details straight until we do it all over again the next day.

I realized before the second day of the trial was over that I needed to be super focused on my writing during my available time – somewhere between 6:00 and 6:30 in the morning. And I can only squeeze out about ten minutes during that half-hour.

What is an author to do???

Since I know this situation isn’t permanent (it isn’t, right?) I only needed to come up with a solution to last for those four weeks or so. I wanted to make some progress on my WIP, but mostly I didn’t want to lose the story.

What do I mean by losing the story? It’s when you take such a long break that you’ve lost the heartbeat of your story and have to spend time reading through all your notes and what you’ve written so far to bring it back again.

Writing in Baby Bits
Photo courtesy ShutterStock

Enter Baby Bits. I got this concept from homemaking. One YouTuber I listen to calls it “Tiny Tidies.” That’s where instead of dedicating hours to cleaning your house, you take care of tiny messes whenever you see them.

How long does it take to put a magazine back in the magazine rack? Less than a minute. Stick a few dirty dishes in the dishwasher? Maybe two minutes. In fifteen minutes or less your living room and kitchen can look presentable.

Do you get the idea?

How long does it take to write two hundred words? Would you believe about ten minutes?

And two hundred words are enough to breathe life into my story each morning.

Of course, these two hundred words aren’t going to show up if I go into my story cold. It takes preparation.

Writing in Baby Bits

When I decided to approach my story this way, I needed to read through it again, have an idea of what was going to happen in this scene, and since I was introducing a new POV character, I needed to understand who she was and how I wanted to portray her.

By Wednesday morning when I sat down for ten minutes between my first cup of tea and my shower, I knew what I was going to write. That afternoon during a break from the court room, I jotted down some notes that covered the rest of the scene. The next morning, I was able to make more progress.

Is this a permanent solution? No. If I was working full time outside my home, I would need to come up with a different kind of writing schedule.

But the “Baby Bits” of writing each morning will help keep my story alive until I can return to my regular routine - hopefully by the middle of February!

What secrets do have of coping with unexpected breaks in your routine?



Pam's Rocket-Launch into Children's Picture BooksWriting with JoyGuest Blogger DeAnna Julie Dodson/Julianna Deering!Ready, Set, Retreat!Sunday Scripture & Prayer RequestsWeekend EditionPutting Your Best Foot ForwardNational Thesaurus Day!A World Within a Book Writing in Baby Bits

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