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an Affiliate of American Christian Fiction Writers

Friday, December 6, 2013

Get Ready to do a Little Happy Dance!

Just heard that our own Tanara McCauley is a finalist in the ACFW First Impressions contest!  Woot-Woot!

Tanara is a stay-at-home wife and mother who loves the Lord and has stepped out to pursue the calling God has placed on her life - writing.

 Way to go, Tanara! 
We're doing a little happy dance for you!
ACFW Romantic Suspense Finalist:
Tanara McCauley

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy Birthday & Congratulations, Lindsay Harrel!

photo courtesy Alessandro,
Today is CWOW member, Lindsay Harrel's birthday - YAY!

We wish you a very Happy Birthday, Lindsay, and we celebrate the news you posted on Facebook today.

Lindsay wrote...
"God gave me a really sweet gift this year: an agent! I'm excited to announce that I'm now represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Management. Soooo incredibly blessed and excited to take this next step in my writing journey!"
Congratulations, Lindsay!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Five Tips When You’re Starting a Blog: Guest Post by Lindsay Harrel

It’s been a little over two years since I began blogging. I well remember the fear of starting out – wondering what I would write about and whether anyone would ever read it! I’ve learned a few things along the way and wanted to share them with you today. Here are five of my most basic tips for those considering starting a blog.

1.       Write posts that are true to who you are. Before writing that first post, consider what you like to write about and read. There are a million and one writing blogs out there, many done very well. But if you’re a writer, think about who you want your readers to be. Chances are, you’re wanting to reach people who share similar values and interests as you. So write posts that get to heart of who you are. Sure, you’re a writer, but you’re more than that.

I started out trying to write posts about writing…and I felt clueless. I mean, what could I really teach others? Instead, I thought about what I loved, what moved me: my faith, music, reading, etc. Now I write posts about what I’m learning in my faith walk and how certain songs and books I’ve read move me. I find they’re more fun to write – and I’m being true to who I am.

2.       Write something worthwhile. We’ve all seen them – those blog posts where people simply give a play-by-play of what they’ve done recently. I think these are okay occasionally, especially once you’ve established rapport and a relationship with your readers. But most of the time, you want to offer readers something they can’t get anywhere else. Oftentimes, that’s just your perspective or advice on something. For example, if your blog is about living life as a homeschool mom, you could post tips for managing your day, healthy but easy family recipes, or lessons you’ve learned from your kids (instead of the other way around!).

3.       Use intriguing titles. Be really forthright about what your blog post is about. See how this blog is titled “Five Tips When You’re Starting a Blog”? People can see that and know whether they want to read it. You can also use something creative to pull people in. But don’t get so “creative” that you confuse your readers either. Author and social media guru Edie Melson has a great post on that.

4.       Include an image. The Internet has ruined us forever – we crave images! Keep your blog posts fresh and engaging by including at least one image or video. One of my favorite places to locate free photos is

5.       Ask a question. You want your blog to be a space for building relationships, and the way to get readers involved is to ask them a question at the end of your post. By asking for their opinions, you’re inviting engagement and are more likely to get people to come back. Be sure to respond to each comment if you can.

I hope these tips are helpful to you as you venture forth into the world of blog creation. Good luck!

Your Turn: Do you have a blog? Are you thinking about starting one? Any questions about starting one? If you have a blog, share the link in the comments and tell us what it’s about!

Lindsay Harrel has a bachelor’s in journalism and a master’s in English. She was a 2013 ACFW Genesis Finalist (Contemporary Category) and is published in the Falling in Love with You anthology from OakTara. She works in marketing as a copywriter and has worked in the past as a business writer and curriculum editor. Lindsay lives in Arizona with her husband and two golden retriever puppies in serious need of training. Connect with her on her blog or via Facebook or Twitter (@LindsayHarre

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Free Editing Software

Just discovered this great FREE editing tool - SmartEdit Lite.

Just copy a secion of your manuscript, paste it into the SmartEdit program and it will check it for adverb usage, over-used words and phrases, clich├ęs, and improper use of dialog tags. SmartEdit Lite works with RTF files and offers a great start for any writer when editing their work.

They also have a much more robust version of the program which runs about $50 if you want to take the next step in editing your novel.

You can check out and download both the Lite version and the Full version at Bad Wolf Software.

They also have several other programs with free versions that could be of benefit to writer.  Check them out.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Write before you Write

Have you ever sat down at the keyboard, fingers poised to work on your novel and the words just won't come?  I'm not talking writer's block, here. I'm talking about your mind being so full of stuff (thoughts whirling around in your head) that you can't focus on the next scene you want to write?

I've think I've found a solution - write before you write!

Say what?

That's right, write before you write. Open up a blank document. Don't put a title, just close your eyes (if you touch type) and start writing. Spill all those whirling, swirling, jumbled thoughts inside your head onto the page. Don't worry about spelling, typos, punctuation, order - nothing...just write. Keep typing until you've said it all. (I usually find about 750-1000 words does it for me.)

When you're through and you've spilled it all out - delete it.

Yes, delete it. 
Erase it. 
Get rid of it.

Now, start working on your novel. Your fingers are loosened up, your mind is clear and you can focus on getting your characters into or out of some trouble. You can join them in their world and forget about yours for a little while. You can always go back and fix things later, but for now, your mind is ready to pour the words onto the "paper," so just let your fingers fly!.

That's my tip for the day. Let me know how it works out for you.


Written by Jan Christiansen

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Upcoming Guest Speaker - Mona Hodgson

We're all looking forward to our September 28th meeting with guest speaker, Mona Hodgson.

Author, Mona Hodgson
Mona is the author of nearly 40 books, historical novels for adults and children's books, including her popular Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series, The Quilted Heart novellas, and upcoming Hearts Seeking Home Series. Her children's books include bestseller, Bedtime in the Southwest, six desert and princess Zonderkidz I Can Read books, Real Girls of the Bible: A 31-Day Devotional, and her six I Wonder books. Mona's writing credits also include several hundred articles, poems and short stories, which have appeared in 50 different publications. Mona is a speaker for women's groups, Christian women's retreats, book clubs and reading groups, schools, and conferences for writers and librarians.

Her topic for our meeting will be...

Researching History for the Story Historical research involves so much more than digging into a setting or time period for historical accuracy. Learn how to research the history of your chosen setting and time period for characterization, plotting, and so much more.

You can visit Mona online at

We welcome visitors to our meetings. There is a $5.00 fee for visitors. You may visit twice to see if we're a good fit for you before you join. (You must be a member of ACFW to join CWOW)

Our next meeting is...

September 28th  2013
1:00 - 3:00
Coco's Restaurant
4514 E Cactus Road
Phoenix, AZ 85032, USA
Hope to see you there! 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Writing Tips from Karen Kingsbury

 USA Today and #1 New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury is America’s #1 inspirational novelist. There are more than 20 million copies of her award-winning books in print, including several million copies sold in the past year. Karen has written more than 50 novels, ten of which have hit #1 on national lists. So, when Karen Kingsbury gives writer's tips - we take notes!

You can find Karen Kingsbury's Ten Tips for Aspiring Authors on her web site. Here are the first two and a link to the rest on her site. Get your notepad out - or get ready to hit the print button!

1. Keep Writing
If God has given you a book to write, or if you feel He has placed a story on your heart that needs to be told...write, write, write. Get it finished, and make sure it is written to the best of your ability.

2. Join a Writer's Group
There are many Christian writers groups for aspiring authors. In order to make your manuscript the best book it can be, you should join one of these groups and learn from others. A couple to try are Christian Writers Guild and

Read the rest of the article - HERE

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Searching for that Perfect Title by Leola Ogle

Some writers struggle with coming up with a good title for their novel. We all know that when a reader picks a book the first thing they see is the cover, and then the title. They’ll usually read the blurb on the back, BUT they read the title first. How do you come up with your title?

As Christian writers we know our book or books will have a message. If not a blatant Christian message, it will have a theme running through it of morality, integrity, or clean wholesomeness. When I first started to seriously pursue writing, I determined that my novels would incorporate a Bible verse in the title, and that verse would set the theme.

Do you know the Bible is full of catchy titles? The first novel I wrote was a fictionalize story of my first marriage – it was more for healing than publication. I titled it As Waters That Pass Away based on Job 11:16.

My next novel I worked on is In An Eveningtide based on 2 Samuel 11:1, 2. It’s a modern version of King David when he’s on the roof of his home and sees Bathsheba bathing and lusts for her. I originally titled it The Roof of The King’s House, but felt I needed to shorten it. In An Eveningtide is included in the same scripture reference.

Another one is Grasping For The Wind taken from Ecclesiastes 6:9. This phrase is actually repeated several times throughout Ecclesiastes. Another novel I’m working on is A Lily Among Thorns based on Song of Solomon 2:2.

I also include the full scripture as an introduction to the novel. Are you struggling for a catchy title? Look in your Bible. I found that Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Psalm, and Ecclesiastes are rich sources. And why not include the scripture as the theme for your novel. The Bible is very poetic and flowery. Give it try! 


Leola is a 2012 Rattler Winner in the Historical Fiction category and the first place winner in the 2013 Faithwriter's Page Turner contest. Her debut novel, Like a Cedar in Lebonon is a heart-stirring read. You can catch up with Leola online at Writing With Leola.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Congratulations, Dana McNealy!

A big Christian Writers of the West shout goes out to our chapter president, Dana McNeely, who is a finalist in the Oregon Christian Writers 2013 Cascade Writing Contest with her unpublished fiction piece, titled Rain.

It's exciting to watch members of CWOW grow in their writing skills and begin placing and winning in various writing contests. It's an encouragement to us all to keep going.

Congratulations, Dana - we're so proud of you!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Congratulations, Leola Ogle!

CWOW member, Leola Ogle
took first place in the
Faithwriters Page Turner Contest! 

Yay, Leola!

Leola is the author of 

Like A Cedar in Lebanon

You can visit her online HERE

Friday, June 28, 2013

Inspiring Others to Write

All this week, I had the privilege to sit under the instruction of a terrific teacher who has inspired me to do something I never wanted to do: Teach grammar.

Yes, that’s right. 

She inspired me with her enthusiasm, intelligence, and love of teaching. Now I cannot wait to get into my classroom and teach my students how to be better writers and communicators. Yes, I know grammar can be tedious, but once you see how important it is in writing, you will love learning more about it!

What’s the big deal about teaching writing and communicating anyway?

Well, try reading an essay written with “texting” language.  Or try not to overreact when your student calls you “dude” during an oral presentation. Or try not to scream with frustration after counting all the “uhs” and “ums” in that same oral presentation. 

And don’t get me started on email communications!

To Write=To Communicate

Yes, our students are in great need of instruction in effective communication. And that’s why I am grateful that our teacher this week showed us the importance of teaching this topic.

But the main thing she did was educate me about the importance of grammar in writing. She taught me the trivium:

  • ·         Grammar
  • ·         Logic
  • ·         Rhetoric

And how all three go together when teaching reading and writing. This idea, from the classical liberal arts curriculum, aligns nicely with my personal philosophy of teaching. 

  • ·         Grammar- how to use words properly. 
  •  ·        Logic- thought/critical thinking
  • ·         Rhetoric- speaking and writing effectively and with reason in order to persuade.

As a teacher, I long to inspire my students to think for themselves about a variety of topics using reason. And then take those thoughts and put them down on paper in an organize manner using the tools (grammar) I have given them. Finally, I long to see them defend those thoughts judiciously, with factual support. 

How hard can that be?

As much of a challenge as it is, it is also that rewarding!

I find it sad that so many schools do not teach logic and rhetoric along with grammar. We, as a society, are losing out because of this. 

By teaching students how to use words properly, we are helping them succeed. By teaching students how to think for themselves, we are helping them succeed. By teaching students to speak and write using factual evidence to support what they are saying…we are definitely helping them succeed in life. 

Now that I have sat in a classroom where my teacher inspired me, I can be the teacher inspiring my students to want to write properly, think reasonably, and argue judiciously. 

All this will help make better and more productive citizens. Citizens who can communicate effectively in a variety of mediums. Citizens who can contribute to society. Citizens who can THINK and want to LEARN. 

In the end, isn’t that what we all want? 


Author, Ruth A. Douthitt’s first book, The Dragon Forest, was released by OakTara Publishing in 2011. The second book of the trilogy, The Dragon Forest II: Son of the Oath, is set for release in July 2013. Ruth teaches writing to middle grade students and lives in Phoenix with her husband and son. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Making the Best of Writing Contest Results: Guest Post by Lindsay Harrel

Let’s face it: one of the scariest things we can do as writers is put our work out there.

What’s even scarier than that? Putting our work out there to be judged by other writers.

*The horror! The horror!*

But as a newbie writer, contests can be a helpful way to get feedback. I entered my first fiction contests in 2012. My motivation was not to win or get accolades of any sort (though of course I wouldn’t turn them down if I did!). No, my reason was simply feedback.

At the time, I didn’t have a critique partner and had just asked a few non-writer friends to look over my work casually. I truly had no concept of how “good” or “bad” my writing was – in other words, I didn’t know where I was on the spectrum. Entering a few contests was a fabulous way for me to start the process and claim the title of AUTHOR.

After I entered the contests last year, I eagerly awaited the feedback – and, I have to admit, was a little disappointed.

Because results seemed to conflict.

Because a few judges weren’t so nice.

Because the amount of criticism was overwhelming.

So for anyone who is new to entering writing contests, here’s a little 5-step plan I’ve devised for dealing with the feedback.

  1. Give yourself 24 hours to react. Regardless of the feedback – whether positive or negative – you need to just let yourself absorb the information, or in some cases, the sting. It’s okay! I say, it’s the perfect excuse for ice cream whether you did really well in the contest or not.

One day is a great amount of time to process the emotions before moving back to look over the results in more detail. Take a few more days if you need it, but don’t stay off the horse for long.

  1. Read results carefully and compile them in one document. Open an Excel spreadsheet or Word document and organize each piece of information from judges side by side, so you can compare what they thought of your writing within the same category.

  1. Find at least one positive. As you look through the judges’ responses, find at least one area where you did well. Are you great at drawing in readers to your storyworld and setting? Are you fabulous at bringing characters to life? Maybe you have an uncanny knack for stringing words together beautifully. Whatever your strengths, find them and rejoice in them.

  1. Glean at least one area that needs improvement. Inevitably, judges are going to differ in their responses. That’s why you should look for commonalities. Is there something that all the judges, or at least more than one, mentioned as an area for improvement? Focus on finding one and then finding a craft book that deals specifically with that area.

  1. Remember that a contest does NOT determine your self-worth or your worth as a writer. There is an incredible amount of subjectivity between contests and judges. This week, I finaled in a writing contest, but last week, there was another contest I entered and didn’t even semifinal in! Keep sight of WHY you do what you do: to bring God glory.

Writing is a hard business, but don’t let contest results or rejections of any sort make you feel like you aren’t meant to do this. Look to the One who gave you this talent in the first place, and ask him to direct your steps.

Lindsay Harrel

Lindsay Harrel has a bachelor’s in journalism and a master’s in English. She is a 2013 ACFW Genesis Finalist (Contemporary Category) and is published in the Falling in Love with You anthology from OakTara. She works in marketing as a copywriter and has worked in the past as a business writer and curriculum editor. Lindsay lives in Arizona with her husband and two golden retriever puppies in serious need of training. Connect with her on her blog or via Facebook or Twitter (@LindsayHarrel).