This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at

Path of Freedom, Quilts of Love series

1858 North Carolina - When Quakers Flora Saferight and Bruce Millikan embark on the Underground Railroad, they agree to put their differences aside to save the lives of a pregnant slave couple..

Highland Sanctuary, (Highland series - Book 2)

1477 Scotland - A chieftain heir is hired to restore Briagh Castle and discovers a hidden village of outcasts who have created their own private sanctuary from the world.

Highland Blessings, (Book 1 - Highland series)

1473 Scotland - The story of a highland warrior who kidnaps the daughter of his greatest enemy and clan chief to honor a promise to his dying father.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Character Sketch

Since I'm plotting a new novel, I thought I would share my Character Sketch process. Each writer has to find something that works for them. Over the years I've picked up a few things from books I've read and workshops I've attended and adapted them to my style. I hope some of what I've posted here is helpful.

The first thing I do is take time getting to know my characters. I begin with the hero and heroine and then move toward the secondary characters. For naming my characters I like to scan through the "Character Naming Sourcebook" by Sherrilyn Kenyon. To determine my characters' personalities, I used "The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines" by Tami Cowden, Carol LaFever and Sue Viders. These two books are invaluable resources whether you write historical, contemporary, romance, women's fiction, mainstream, suspense, or science fiction.

The form below is my Character Sketch form that I use for my two main characters. I use the same format for secondary characters, but I will fill in less information and only the details that I feel are important to that character's role.

Character Sketch Form
Title of Manuscript _______________________
Name of Character _______________________


Physical Traits
Hair Color:
Eye Color:
Unique Marks:

Behavior Traits
Age and/or DOB:

Relationship to HeroineLikes:

As I add in the characteristics, I may add a few extra categories or include glasses or contacts beside Eye Color. The Archetype comes from the book hero & heroine book listed above. I may not use all this information, but I have it if I need it. Also, I sometimes change my character as the book evolves. For instance, someone who is weak or innocent at the beginning of the book may evolve into a stronger and wiser person after a few learned lessons and experiences. If I know this will happen from the beginning. I may include that in my notes on this form.
Filling out a Character Sketch will also help you with plotting your story. Some stories are plot driven and others are character driven, but either way, you have to know your characters to determine why they make the decisions they make. This form has worked for me and I hope it will help you if you don't already use something similar.
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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What's Up With Our Education System?

On December 5th, I read an article in The Charlotte Observer that really upset me. In "Search for Teachers Goes Global" our new Superintendant is sending people to the Philippines to hire teachers for special education, math and science. Apparently, Charlotte, NC has decided to follow the example of other cities such as Las Vegas, Wichita, and Virginia Beach in recruiting teachers from the Philippines.

While bringing in foreign teachers may work for students in traditional classes who do not have problems learning, it is another matter for Special Education programs. These students may have learning disabilities, delayed development, ADD, ADHD, Sensory Integration Disorder, etc. The article indicated that hiring foreign teachers could cause issues with language barriers and accents, and these teachers are used to lecture-style teaching. Special Education students learn differently and often require creative resources and adaptive learning environments. It doesn't make sense to hire teachers that are not used to our culture, language and alternative teaching methods.

What makes it even worse, is that some education systems are going through a program called Visiting International Faculty (VIF), an exchange program that places international teachers in US educational systems. When I went to their website at, they are advertising, "Teachers with limited or no teaching experience may be qualified to teach in the USA with the VIF program."

While it's true that many school systems are losing teachers to the corporate world because they can't afford to pay them, but bringing in teachers from other countries with "limited or no experience" and who may also jump to the corporate world after a couple of years is not the solution. We are setting ourselves up for constant turnover and our children are the ones who are paying the price for it.

Needless to say, I wrote a letter to the Editor that was published last Saturday and I've been writing emails to the Superintendent of the Exceptional Program and I've contacted people on the state level School Board. Now I'm trying to reach other parent groups. I decided to blog about this because Charlotte is only copying what other cities are doing. What's going on in your city?

We are so busy trying not to "reinvent the wheel" that we haven't inspected the knots and kinks in the first wheel to see how well it's holding up against various routes. What works for a flat road may not be appropriate for a winding road or up a mountain. Likewise, gravel can't be treated the same as asphalt. In other words, what works for Las Vegas and Virginia Beach isn't necessarily the right approach for Charlotte. We have proven that traditional teaching methods are not the answer for special needs students, neither are teachers who do not have experience in knowing the difference.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Happiest Season of All

Our house is decorated with lights around my bushes across my house and a lit wreath on the front door and lit garland around the front porch posts. I have lit angels in each window instead of the typical candles and my new fiber optic tree is up with a few wrapped presents underneath. And to top everything, I have my historical Christmas village set up on display. Can you tell how much I love Christmas?

Some companies in Charlotte got together and donated a little outdoor ice rink to our city. This made it possible for us to take our daughter and she got to experience her first outdoor ice rink. It was wonderful! We loved it! She's begging to go back. So we promised we would try and take her back one more time before Christmas. We also took her to see McAddenville, a town that traditionally decorates for Christmas each year with over 200 houses participating. We've already started our Christmas movie frenzy.

And then the school sends home my daughter's first research paper due on December 19th! I'm trying to be good about this, really I am, but why couldn't they do this in January or February? Are they purposely trying to ruin Christmas? (My mother works for one of the school systems in a different county and called to tell me that one NC county school system has declared that there will be no celebration of Christmas whatsoever, not even "Happy Holidays" will be allowed.) So far the other counties in NC have not gone that far and I pray that they do not.

My daughter is only in the third grade and each night she has over 3 1/2 hours of homework. The kid never gets a break except on weekends. Now three weeks before Christmas, I feel like the school has taken away that as well. The next three weekends are already packed full of events spending time with family out of town, Girl Scout activities, church activities. I don't know how we are going to squeeze in this research paper. It isn't like she'll have time during the week with her regular schedule of homework.

My daughter has some delayed development from her seizure history and has an IEP (Individual Education Plan), along with speech therapy, and occupational therapy. It takes her twice as long to complete her assignments compared to other children her age. Therefore, everything they give her is modified. However, her curiculum still seems a bit tough. For instance, this week her vocabulary (reading) words are omnivorous, nocturnal, observant, pheromone, and theoretically. Is that not pushing it for third graders, especially one with special needs who "theorethically" has an IEP?

The first thing my husband said is, "You're the writer. This is right up your alley." Yes, I am a writer, at least I would like to think so, but this is supposed to be her report. Celina still struggles to write sentences, much less paragraphs that complete whole pages. She also has to get up in front of the class and give a presentation on her report. I don't remember doing this in the third grade. It seems like I was much older--like fifth grade.

I'm beginning to wonder if the schools aren't the ones pressuring our kids so much that they turn to alternative things. And they wonder why the high school drop out rate is increasing in our state? They wonder why kids are depressed, obese, and stressed? I can think of lots of reasons. At least my daughter has the support of my husband and I, and we teach her about a loving God who will help her through this. I can't help but wonder about all the children whose parents are not as active in their academic life and do not have a loving Saviour to turn to?

Somehow I know we will find a way to fit this research paper into our already busy Christmas schedule. Things will work out. After all, I keep reminding myself, this is supposed to be the "Happiest Season of All."

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Write in the Right Place

On Friday afternoon my husband decided he wanted to go to the mountains for a spur-of-the-moment weekend getaway. It sounded wonderful. We had not been to the mountains in a while and I love going up there. Whenever we get the chance we try and see his grandmother in Bryson City near the Cherokee reservation in North Carolina.

As I was packing, I fretted over whether or not I should take my laptop. I work full-time and so I have to squeeze in my writing time wherever and whenever I get the chance. In the past, I would get in a few hours of writing time while my husband does the driving. My husband said he didn't mind if I take it, but the idea of bringing it just didn't seem right.

Lately, the Lord has been dealing with me about spending (quality) time with my family. I wouldn't be able to give them my full attention if I was in the middle of a scene and I had to cut it short for dinner, a scenic view, conversation, etc. I would be torn with guilt and thoughts that I was either short-changing my family or my writing. I know, because I've dealt with these feelings in the past.

I decided to leave the laptop at home. As a result, I got no writing completed over the weekend, but I did have a wonderful time with my family and created new memories that I will always cherish. I came home with a new writing reference book, new story ideas, and had developed more in my spiritual growth.

In putting my writing aside for a few days, I was able to see some things that the Lord has been trying to show me. At one time in my life when I was writing for the secular market, I put my writing above everything else in my life--including God and my family. I didn't realize I was doing this, but now I see it. I was obsessed with writing and becoming published. In some ways it became an idol in my life and the Lord was not pleased. Therefore, He took away my desire to write and for three years I didn't write at all. Only after I changed my attitude, restored God at the head of my life where He belongs, and experienced a renewing of my faith, did the desire to write come back. Now I am trying to establish my writing voice as a CBA author instead of an ABA author.

My latest manuscript was rejected by Steeple Hill because they felt it didn't have enough faith interwoven in the storyline. My agent suggested that I could retool it for the ABA market. Over the weekend, the theme of reaching more people outside of the ministry keep being reiterated during various conversations with people I had just met. The point is that most people who are already going to church and reading Christian fiction and nonfiction have already been touched by God or they wouldn't be going to church and reading Christian material. Could I reach more people in the secular market? How much faith would I be allowed to write in my books? Could I be a bridge writer that crosses over to both the CBA and ABA markets?

While I don't have the answers to these questions, I am now considering them and searching....

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Celebrating the Crossover

This month marks a one-year anniversary of when I felt led to switch from secular fiction to Christian fiction. I knew I needed to be writing for the Lord--to glorify Him. This was not an immediate decision. I pursued publication in the secular market from 1996 to 2002. It was at the end of this year I took a three-year break from my writing. During this time God dealt with me and I grew and changed.

In October 2005, the desire to write again hit me. I couldn't imagine writing for myself as I did before. While I was not a new Christian, I had experienced a spiritual renewing in my life. Writing was part of my life and I felt this spiritual renewness should reflect in my writing.

Now one year later, I've converted two complete manuscripts from secular to Christian. I've plotted five new novels and started writing two of them. I have a well-respected agent representing my work. I've created a website, this blog, and a newsletter. Soon I will join six other writers on a new blog and I've agreed to serve on the Public Relations Committee of American Christian Fiction Writers.

Today, one year later, I also received another rejection from a publisher that had requested revisions. For the first time in my writing career, I didn't feel the pain of rejection that I usually feel. If I didn't know better, I would claim that I'm just becoming immune to it after all these years, but I do know better. I know that isn't the case. I feel a peace and a trust that I didn't have before.

I have given my writing over to the Lord. If it wasn't meant for me to be published by that particular publisher then I'm okay with it. I know God will bring about the circumstances to match me up with the right publisher for my writing style. During my three years sabatical from writing, God taught me that sometimes timing is everything. You cannot reap a harvest when you are in a planting season. Right now I am in a season of restoration in my personal life--spiritually, emotionally, financially, perhaps in my writing life as well. I've only been writing a year since my three years of nothing. I look forward to the things God has planned for my writing career. I will keep writing and keep submitting, until my season of publication comes.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Writing Contests

I have a confession to make. I don't like writing contests. Now that I've made that statement, I also want to make it clear that there are many advantages to entering writing contests. It is for these reasons that I enter and I am very selective.

Now that the major writing conferences are over, it will soon be time to enter contests again. Writers around the world will be revising and polishing their manuscripts for another chance to see their work shine forth above what others have written.

I have only entered four contests in eleven years, and I only finaled in one of those contests. I wasn't impressed with some of the comments. A few of the judges gave some very bad advice. Others gave good advice and I put the good advice to work on my manuscripts. In the last contest I entered, a judge insisted on critiquing a one-page synopsis that wasn't supposed to be critiqued. It was optional to include and I assumed the contest rules would be adhered to, especially by the judge. I was wrong.

I keep an open mind to entering contests because not everyone is going to love my work no matter how well I write. Once my work is in print for the whole world to read, some will like it, some will be indifferent to it, and others will hate it. This is a fact I have learned to accept. However, my goal will be to find people who like my writing style and sell my books to them. In the meantime, contests will help me prepare and deal with the compliments and criticisms I receive from others.

Other advantages include getting your manucript in front of an editor or agent, building writing credentials on your bio, gaining you exposure to the publishing world, givng feedback and a better writing experience, etc.

Because of some bad experiences, I have been reluctant to enter more contests. They cost money and I have to make sure that my investment will be worth it. Therefore, I have learned a few lessons to determine which contests to enter.

1. Choose a writing contests that has a category for what you write. Some contests do not have categories for women's fiction, young adult or inspirationals. Don't waste your time and money if they don't have a category for which you write.
2. Enter a contest that will have an agent or an editor judging the category for which you are entering. If your manuscript finals, you will be given a chance to have your manuscript read above the slush piles on their desks. This can take years off your "waiting to be discovered" period.

3. If you are entering a contest to receive feedback on your writing, only enter a contests that provides written comments from judges. If the contest uses generic score sheets, you might not be getting the kind of feedback you want written directly on your manuscript.

4. Only enter contests with reasonable fees. The average contest should be no more than $15-35 per manuscript. If it is a huge contest where hundreds are entering, the fee might be anywhere from $50-$150.

5. Don't assume that trained judges or published judges are the final word on what is right. Research their comments and suggestions to determine if they are valid before you revise your whole manuscript on a few comments.

6. Don't have any expectations. If you final and win -- wonderful! If you don't, use the good suggestions and discard and forget the bad suggestions. Some comments will be totally off and you will know in your spirit whether or not to ignore them.

7. Judges are volunteers and writers themselves. Therefore, they may recognize a manuscript they have critiqued for a friend in a critique group from online or a local chapter.

8. Keep an open mind and prepare your heart with prayer and supplication. You may honestly need some of the critiques you receive.

I pray your submissions will go well in your next contest.

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Blurring the Lines Between CBA and ABA Markets

While the CBA Market (Christian Book Association) continues to grow by leaps and bounds, the lines between what is considered Christian and secular (ABA Market) is blurry and confusing to some consumers. According to, Christian Publishing is a substantial portion of the $4.2 billion-a-year of the Christian products industry. As a result, many of the ABA publishers are buying and merging with traditional Christian publishers and/or starting their own Chrisitian publishing divisions to cash in on as much of that money as possible.

For several years, Harlequin has been publishing Christian books under the imprint of Steeple Hill. Warner Books started out with their imprint as Warner Faith and recently converted to a new line called Hachette Book Group USA. Penguin Putnam created Penquin Praise, and most recently Multnomah, a traditional Christian publisher, was purchased by Random House.

A concern I have heard from some Christian writers in my writing groups, as well as book reviewers, is that more authors who traditionally write secular books have turned to writing what they "claim" to be Christian books with no real Christian values based on bibilical principles. Just because a writer happens to mention God a few times in the story doesn't mean it is a Christian novel, nor should it be marketed as such. When this happens people do not get an honest idea of what Christian fiction should be. True Christians reject it and those who don't know any better, embrace it with the wrong perception of God's Word.

To make matters worse, there are some authors who started out writing secular romance books and later converted to Christian fiction. Therefore, some of these writers may have both kinds of books out on the shelves and it confuses readers who may just be learning about them. Two writers that come to mind are Robin Lee Hatcher and Francine Rivers. These Christian women are writing wonderful Christian fiction, but a new reader who happens to pick up one of their old secular books may refuse to read any of their new works because that reader may not know about their conversion.

With so much hype out there on the shelves in promotion and marketing, how do we writers go about educating our readers so they do not waste money on books they didn't intend to buy? Or prevent a reader from avoiding Christian fiction because they might have gotten the wrong impression with their first introduction to the CBA Market? I believe we have to educate them on how to buy books. Readers need to know which publishers are traditional Christian publishers and which ABA imprints to buy.

Readers can check out several Christian fiction writers by visiting, American Christian Fiction Writers. CBA publishers and ABA imprints are also listed at, a webpage from the Faith, Hope & Love chapter of Romance Writers of America. Read Christian book reviews and check out the CBA online website at, where you can find the top bestsellers in the CBA Market.

According to several publishing statistics, Christian fiction is not only growing, but a market that is here to stay. Christians want to read fiction without compromising their faith.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Home from the Mission Field

Our church, Word of Wisdom Fellowship, sent a team of seven to Jamaica on a missions trip. I am happy to say that everyone arrived home safely--including my husband, Dwayne. It was his first missions trip and he really didn't know what to expect. They concentrated on street evangelism and saw over 60-80 decisions for Christ.

Dwayne preached his first sermon and he said the Holy Spirit showed up to make it all happen perfectly. They were surrounded by 100 taxi cab drivers on both sides and everything was loud when they arrived, but when he began preaching everyone grew quiet and listened. I wish I could have been there to see it.

They visited several places, including schools and a children's home. Below is a photo of our pastor, Avery Dunn, with children from one of the schools. Dwayne said these children were so happy and completely unaware of their poverty.

Our mission team experienced some home-cooking, Jamaican style, thanks to a couple of ladies from one of the local churches. I think our team is missing these home-cooked meals. They were welcomed by everyone they met and the people in Jamaica were so friendly. Our church is hoping to send another team to Jamaica next year in March when it might be a little cooler.

A few of the things they had to get used to was the humid heat without any air condition. With the exception of the resorts, the power is turned off on the island everyday between 1-4 p.m. to save electricity. Tiny ants ran the household and Dwayne said you just learn to live with them. He came home with so many bug bites. I've never seen anything like it. They drive on the left side of the road and apparently they drive fast.

It sounds like it was a wonderful experience for our team and for the people they met in Jamaica. May God bless them all!