Write What You. . .No? by Author Betsy S. Amant

Monday, September 1, 2014

As an author, I’ve attended many conferences and sat through a ton classes on the craft of writing. And while the courses taught a variety of topics, all of which were extremely enlightening and helped me grow in my craft, one theme seemed to rise throughout each one—a niggling concept or message that dug intentional talons into my heart and held on tight. 

That theme was “write what you know.”

That theme has been argued before, of course. Because, technically, that message would mean that you could never write a romantic suspense story with a policeman hero if you, yourself, were not a policeman. That message would mean that you would never be able to write about a an astronaut if you’ve never been to space, or a race-car driver, or a military vet, or a doctor, or a lawyer if you had never driven race cars, manned the front lines in combat, earned a tough degree or passed the Bar. 

And very unfortunately for me, that would mean I would have never been able to write about a female baker longing to break free of her small town, average-flavored life and make it big in the culinary world, because—ahem—I can’t bake to save my life. Oh sure, I can whip out a Pillsbury roll of cookie dough with the best of them, but when it comes to creating unique cupcake delights like my heroine Kat Varland, my expertise definitely lies more in the “taste testing” field.

So how can an author write what they know, if they don’t know all of these different careers and venues? 

I believe, while the message is taught with good intentions and is really more of a prod to thoroughly research your stories before hitting “send” to your editor, that it’s really more of a nod to the author’s heart. 

I write inspirational fiction, which means all of my stories have a subtle faith theme throughout. Therefore, my characters are filtered through my own Christ-centered worldview. And my experiences in my faith and in my walk with Christ are going to be evident, more or less, in one way or another, through my character’s faith walk in the story. 

How can I honestly write a story with a deep-rooted theme of forgiveness if I’m harboring grudges in my own life? How can I successfully pen a novel with a message of restoration if I’m fighting negativity and depression in my thoughts? How can I offer a legit source of joy and hope to my readers if I’m secretly at my keyboard, hopeless and afraid?

I can’t. I have to write what I know.

So for me, that means doing the research not just for my story’s plot, but for my character’s hearts. What internal conflict will they overcome? More than likely, it’s going to be one I’ve recently overcome or am learning to overcome right along with them. 

The characters in my new release All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes both learn some hard-earned lessons in sacrifice. Heroine and cupcake baker Kat Varland must learn how to shake off her insecurities and fears and set free her dreams while trusting that the ultimate Dream Giver (God) has her best interest close to His heart. She has to believe that He can turn even her most average-flavored dream into one bursting with color and sweetness. And hero and high school football coach Lucas Brannen must discover that sometimes, letting go and surrendering his own perfect play gives God the opportunity to call a surprise play that lands the ultimate victory. 

While writing this story, I had to learn similar lessons. Like Kat, I had to learn to let go of my shattered dreams and the insecurities holding me back, and believe in a better future. And like Lucas, I had to learn that surrendering what I’m holding so tight actually stifles and crushes it, rather than controls it. There is freedom in sacrifice and in letting go—and there is reward to obedience. 

And that is why I will always strive to write what I know. 

Betsy St. Amant has a heart for three things – chocolate, new shoes and sharing the amazing news of God’s grace through her novels. She lives in Louisiana with her adorable story-telling young daughter, a collection of Austen novels, and an impressive stash of Pickle Pringles. A freelance journalist and fiction author, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is multi-published in Contemporary Romance. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to the Tangled soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching, and can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha.


A Triumphant Story of Hurt and Healing

Lisa Wingate’s The Story Keeper ~ Reviewed 
Published by Tyndale House Publishers 
ISBN 978-1414386898 
Review by Elizabeth Ludwig


Tyndale House Publishers, 2014
Successful New York editor, Jen Gibbs, is at the top of her game with her new position at Vida House Publishing -- until a mysterious manuscript from an old slush pile appears on her desk. Turning the pages, Jen finds herself drawn into the life of Sarra, a mixed-race Melungeon girl trapped by dangerous men in the turn of the century Appalachia. A risky hunch may lead to The Story Keeper's hidden origins and its unknown author, but when the trail turns toward the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a place Jen thought she'd left behind forever, the price of a blockbuster next book deal may be higher than she's willing to pay. 


Lisa Wingate never fails to provide an entertaining tale. Her latest offering, The Story Keeper, goes one better by providing a story within a story, both equally compelling. With each chapter, I was drawn further into the past and Sarra’s tragic, tortured flight toward freedom. In the present, it was Jen and her sad, twisted childhood that kept me turning pages. Together, The Story Keeper made for an engaging and bittersweet tale of triumph over past hurts and hope for a brighter future. 



Sunday Devotional: Psalm 56: Tears in a Bottle

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A quick jaunt back a few Psalms to catch one that is very meaningful to me ...

Psalm 56 (NKJV) ~ To the Chief Musician. Set to “The Silent Dove in Distant Lands.” A Michtam of David when the Philistines captured him in Gath.

Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up;
Fighting all day he oppresses me.
My enemies would hound me all day,
For there are many who fight against me, O Most High.

A friend and I were musing this week on how unrelenting warfare is for believers, especially lately. Let’s face it, if we belong to God, we have a lot of enemies.

Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You.
In God (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not fear.
What can flesh do to me?

The flip side of that is, regardless of how many enemies we have, we have the God of the universe on our side. “If God be for us, who can be against us?”

All day they twist my words;
All their thoughts are against me for evil.
They gather together,
They hide, they mark my steps,
When they lie in wait for my life.
Shall they escape by iniquity?
In anger cast down the peoples, O God!

They think they can get away with breaking the rules ... by breaking the rules ... but they can’t.

You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?
When I cry out to You,
Then my enemies will turn back;
This I know, because God is for me.
10 In God (I will praise His word),
In the Lord (I will praise His word),
11 In God I have put my trust;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

You number my wanderings ... put my tears into Your bottle ...

What a thought that He collects even our tears, holds them in precious remembrance ... that each wandering is marked and noted. Even when we think we’re far from him, even when we weep, He sees, He knows. He doesn’t just care, but He records it in His book!

12 Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God;
I will render praises to You,
13 For You have delivered my soul from death.
Have You not kept my feet from falling,
That I may walk before God
In the light of the living?

Sometimes all that keeps us walking with the Lord is the vows we’ve spoken before Him. Yet just to stop and remember what He’s done for us—You have delivered my soul from death—is what spurs us to offer Him praise, time after time.

Because He has delivered each of us from an untimely death, and from untold falls, with the purpose that we should each walk before Him—and with Him—to fulfill whatever purpose He has for each of us “in the light of the living”—during our existence on this planet. He preserves us, despite the unrelenting warfare, for however long that might be.

And in the meantime, in the times of sorrow, He bends tenderly close, to catch each tear as it falls.

Weekly Drawing ~ Carrie Stuart Parks

Friday, August 29, 2014

It's Fun Friday at The Borrowed Book! This week's prize is available to residents inside the continental US only.

To enter:

Leave the time it took you to complete the puzzles in the comments section as well as your email address for notifying you if you've won. Winners will be drawn from ALL of the times, so the person with the fastest time may not be the actual winner, but by leaving your time, you double your chances.

Want another entry? Tweet your puzzle time and mention The Borrowed Book, get another entry. RETWEET our Tweet, get two entries!

Post your puzzle time on BB's Facebook wall and...you guessed it...get another entry!

Post it on your OWN Facebook wall and you could get as many as FIVE entries.

It's all a way to spread the word about the great giveaways on BB. So c'mon! Help us spread the word, and have a little fun at the same time. Enter all weekend long! Winners will be announced Sunday night at midnight.

This week's puzzle feature is brought to you by Carrie Stuart Parks and her newest release, A Cry from the Dust.

 Click to Mix and Solve

A Visit With Carrie Stuart Parks

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I lead an odd and crazy-busy life. I am an I.A.I. Certified Forensic Artist and law enforcement instructor. The bulk of my time is spent in teaching forensic art to law enforcement professionals across the US and Canada. I teach people, often who couldn’t draw blood with a knife, how to draw a face from a witness description. Once or twice a month, my artist-husband and I are catching a plane to some distant location to teach forensic classes. We’re now in our twenty-sixth year of training folks in forensic art.

When I’m home, the phone could ring at any moment from the police, sheriff, FBI, prosecuting attorney, former student, news station, or television show requesting my services. They have a rape, homicide, abduction, robbery, case going to court, question on a case, dead body, need a courtroom sketch, or could I refer them to a forensic artist in thus-and-so location?

Of course, there’s always the fine art. I’m an award winning watercolorist and teach both watercolor and drawing. This week I’m in Snowmass Village, Colorado, instructing nine women in a private art class.

Did I mention the dogs? Oh, yes. I have a small Great Pyrenees kennel. Several weekends a year will find me showing my pooches in AKC dog show or judging. My two “boys,” 135 pound male Pyrenees, want a daily “walk” (actually, I just hang on as they tear up the trail,) so I do get some exercise. I’m also serving as president of the Great Pyrenees Club of America.

Somehow, in between all this, I write. The good news is that a laptop travels. I plot my novels. Not in detail, but the general direction of the scenes, the three “acts,” and the ending. The main character is a forensic artist, which I know about, but also has elements of some particular belief system: Mormon, Christian Identity, and so on. This requires a lot of research, which I find I love.

My dear husband likes to talk. And talk. And talk. I finally made a sign with a man talking on it with a red circle and line through it. When the sign is up, he needs to talk to the dogs. I’m closed for business.

Well, the ladies are gathering for their lesson on painting an old truck, so that’s a slice of my “writing” life. May God Bless y’all in your journey.


Carrie Stuart Parks is an award-winning fine artist and internationally known forensic artist. She teaches forensic art courses to law enforcement professionals and is the author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing. Carrie began to write fiction while battling breast cancer and was mentored by New York Times best-selling author Frank Peretti. Now in remission, she continues to encourage other women struggling with cancer.

Make sure to stop by tomorrow, when you can enter to win a free copy of Carrie's latest release, A Cry From the Dust!

Developing a Work of Fiction by Author Carrie Stuart Parks

Monday, August 25, 2014

I didn’t think I could write. 
Not fiction at any rate. Over the course of several years, I discovered I could write nonfiction. I’d successfully written and illustrated several how-to drawing books. When I visited the publisher, North Light Media, my editor said I had a great voice. I grinned, thanked her, and asked, “what’s ‘voice’?” 
I decided to write a non-fiction book about signs of deception from a Biblical perspective. As a forensic artist and law enforcement instructor, I experienced and studied deception displayed by certain ‘victims’ of crime. Each chapter started with an illustration from my forensic work: a young man who claims to have been attacked by a ninja, a bank robbery case where the robber was the bank teller, a killer who murdered his wife and said it was two other men. I had great stories. But … I needed to fictionalize them. I discovered it wasn’t that hard.
I pondered the ease of working in fiction. I also thought about my childhood. I grew up, and still live, on a 685 acre ranch in the mountains of North Idaho. We had a lot of horses. Every chance I had, I would gallop madly through the woods on horseback imagining I was a French resistance fighter pursued by Germans, or Velvet Brown about to win the Grand National, or an early pioneer chased by an irate Cheyanne war party. I could be very creative in inventing reasons to roam through the woods on horseback.
So maybe I wasn’t so unimaginative…and I loved to read…I did write poetry in college…so what’s so hard about writing a novel?
Boy howdy, was I in for a learning curve! Show, not tell. Passive language. Plot points. No tension. Thin characters. You name it, I had to learn it. I really believed I was writing well. And I had an awesome mentor: NY Times best-selling author, Frank Peretti. But I was blind to the errors in my writing.  I finally decided to study each writing point I should be doing automatically and study it until it was second nature. This took years. Ten to be exact. In between I suffered discouragement, tears, and occasional moments of above average writing. 
The payoff finally came. Terry Burns of Hartline agency signed me a day after reading my finished manuscript. Thomas Nelson expressed interest twenty-seven minutes after receiving a book proposal. Five out of eight publishers receiving the proposal wanted the full, with two major publishers vying for publication rights in a three book deal at auction. Pretty heady stuff. 
So, let me share some hard-learned advice: keep writing. There are only two types of writers: those who have been discouraged, and those who will be discouraged. Listen to other writers who tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. Keep growing and learning. Everyone starts down that long journey to publication the same way. And God Bless.

Carrie Stuart Parks is an award-winning fine artist and internationally known forensic artist. She teaches forensic art courses to law enforcement professionals and is the author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing. Carrie began to write fiction while battling breast cancer and was mentored by New York Times best-selling author Frank Peretti. Now in remission, she continues to encourage other women struggling with cancer. 

The Tale of the Five-Foot Jack Rabbit or. . .What To Do When Your Well-Plotted Novel Veers Off Course

By Elizabeth Ludwig

Anyone who has ever traveled east from the Pacific Ocean, or west from Jacksonville, Florida, has more than likely, at one time or another, driven down Interstate Highway 10, or I10, as we Texans affectionately call it. Officially, it is the southernmost transcontinental highway in the American Interstate Highway System and the fourth longest highway in the United States, with about 1/3 of its length spanning the state of Texas at its breadth.

Unofficially, it is the highway to hell.

Sections of it are perpetually under construction, at which time I10 becomes a concrete death trap upon which Texas drivers compete for the title of Road Warrior.

I happened to be navigating one such section recently. Traffic was unusually heavy, and my coffee cup sat untouched in its holder as I traversed, white-knuckled and tense, with my teeth clenched and heart pounding, west toward Houston. Several time, I contemplated turning around, taking another route even if it added an hour to my trip. I almost did. And then…the most wondrous thing happened.

I saw a kangaroo. On I10. In Texas.

For several seconds, I could do nothing but stare. I ripped my gaze off of the bumper in front of me, slowed down quickly enough to make the driver behind me honk, and watched as an amazingly Australian figment of my imagination hopped across the highway, over the divider, and into oncoming traffic. How the animal managed to avoid becoming flatter than a Qantas runway is inexplicable. What I do know is that for several miles, I drove openmouthed with my eyes fixed to my rearview mirror as my brain struggled to comprehend what I had just seen.

It was a jack rabbit, my dazed conscious attempted to interject. Everything is bigger in Texas.

Still, a five-foot high jack rabbit was a bit much for this non-native to accept. I drove on in silence for several miles. When I got to Houston, I conducted my business and went on home, one eye ever watchful for a flash of furry figment. I saw nothing—not a pocket or ear, nor bit of hairy hide.

I didn’t speak of the five-foot jack rabbit. To. Anyone. Over time, memory of it faded. What did stick with me was how this completely unexpected diversion impacted me. I thought of it for days. I dreamed of it for nights. And I knew…someday…that the retelling of the five-foot jack rabbit would appear in a story.

You see, writers, often the very best tales are the ones that come at us unexpectedly. Not with careful plotting and hours upon hours of meticulous storyboarding. That’s what I learned on I10 that day. Sometimes, it’s okay to follow a rabbit trail (so to speak).

Don’t get me wrong. Having written myself into a corner on more than one occasion, I am a firm believer in plotting. No writer’s block for me, thank you very much. No sagging middles or unresolved red herrings. Plotting a story from start to finish has helped me avoid many a writerly pitfall. But what to do when a secondary character or story arc takes on a life of its own? As creators of our fictional realms, we wield the power to nip these offshoots before they have a chance to blossom, but should we?

A notable author told me once to write seven possible resolutions to my story. Toss out the first six. Those are scenarios that your reader will expect, the ones they came up with in their head as they watched your story unfold. The seventh one—the one you racked your brain trying to think up, the one that seems most implausible and takes the longest to fully develop, that is the storyline no one will see coming. Kinda like a five-foot jack rabbit on I10.

I eventually told my husband about the animal I saw crossing the highway. When he finally stopped laughing he said, “You didn’t really thing it was a jack rabbit, did you?”

“Well,” I replied weakly, “everything is bigger in Texas.”

“Baby,” my husband said, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes, “the Barnum & Bailey Circus was crossing from Lake Charles to Houston. One of their truck trailers tipped over and a couple of animals got out. You didn’t see a five-foot jack rabbit crossing I10. It was a kangaroo.”

Oh. That explains it. And now, The Tale of the Five-Foot Jack Rabbit.

Chapter One…

Elizabeth Ludwig is the award-winning author of No Safe Harbor and Dark Road Home, Books one and two in the Edge of Freedom series. Book three in the series, Tide and Tempest, was recently named a Top 10 Pick of 2014. Her popular literary blog, The Borrowed Book, enjoys a wide readership. Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and teacher, often attending conferences and seminars where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Along with her husband and children, she makes her home in the great state of Texas. To learn more, visit ElizabethLudwig.com.