Tag Archives: guest post

My Corner of the Vineyard (Guest Post)

My Corner of the Vineyard

by Christine Lindsay

Looking back almost 17 years ago now, I started out as a writer hungry to share my memoirs as a birth-mother, a woman who relinquished her baby to adoption.  But I was far from ready to write that book, far from ready to give comfort to others. The Lord redirected my energy into writing Christian fiction.

He used that time to refine me as a birth-mother, to refine me as the woman He wanted me to be. He did that by helping me see who I really was in His eyes. I had so much healing still to go through at the beginning of my writing career. Like I say in my non-fiction book,

“Typical. Most people going through emotional healing think they’re healed long before they actually are.”

I’m so glad today that my heavenly Father held me back from publishing that non-fiction book in the year 2000, when I was chomping at the bit to stand on a soapbox and tell the world how I felt—that relinquishing my baby broke my heart. That book would have done little to help others. It would have only allowed me to toot my own horn.

This past summer the Lord opened the doors—after all these years—to publish that true-life story that started me writing in the first place. Finding Sarah Finding Me is my birth-mother memoirs, about what God taught me through that tumultuously emotional journey, and also the heart-wrenching and joyful stories from other adoption triads. But with relief I see that long-held-back book is now helping others through their adoption story. It’s helping women see themselves as God sees them.

Christine Lindsay and her birth-daughter, Sarah

Whenever I speak in public I get the great honor of hugging some hurting woman. They range from adoptees, to adoptive moms, women who suffered infertility, or women who married the man they used to call Mr. Wrong because of an unplanned pregnancy, and most quietly of all, women just like me who sidle up to my side—birth-moms.

It’s been a long journey, certainly not an easy one, but to see God working in this part of the vineyard, the part where one woman gives her baby up to another mom and dad for the sake of the baby, is a really special corner. I live here and at long last this birth-mom is happy.

Finding Sarah, Finding Me, by Christine LindsayBook Blurb:

Sometimes it is only through giving up our hearts that we learn to trust the Lord.

Adoption. It’s something that touches one in three people today, a word that will conjure different emotions in those people touched by it. A word that might represent the greatest hope…the greatest question…the greatest sacrifice. But most of all, it’s a word that represents God’s immense love for his people.

Join birth mother Christine Lindsay as she shares the heartaches, hopes, and epiphanies of her journey to reunion with the daughter she gave up…and to understanding her true identity in Christ along the way.

Through her story and glimpses into the lives of other families in the adoption triad, readers will see the beauty of our broken families, broken hearts, and broken dreams when we entrust them to our loving God.

AUTHOR BIO

Christine Lindsay is the author of multi-award-winning Christian fiction with complex emotional and psychological truth, who always promises a happy ending. Tales of her Irish ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in Colonial India inspired her multi-award-winning series Twilight of the British Raj, Book 1 Shadowed in Silk, Book 2 Captured by Moonlight, and explosive finale Veiled at Midnight.

Christine’s Irish wit and use of setting as a character is evident in her contemporary and historical romances Londonderry Dreaming and Sofi’s Bridge.

A busy writer and speaker, Christine, and her husband live on the west coast of Canada, and she has just released her non-fiction book Finding Sarah—Finding Me: A Birthmother’s Story.

Please drop by Christine’s website ChristineLindsay.org or follow her on Amazon on Twitter. Subscribe to her quarterly newsletter, and be her friend on Pinterest , Facebook, and Goodreads

Read Chapter One of Finding Sarah Finding Me: Click HERE

Purchase links:

Amazon (Paperback and Kindle)
Barnes and Noble

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Guest Post: How Busy is Too Busy?

How Busy is Too Busy?

Steph Beth Nickel

A few months ago I came across Jonny Diaz’s song “Breathe.” (If you haven’t heard it, I encourage you to check it out on YouTube.)

There’s a difference between hitting the ground running in the morning and go, go, going until you collapse into bed at night and having a full schedule.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Image Credit: Pixabay

How do you set a reasonable schedule and avoid becoming too busy?

Here are some questions to ask:

Do I get to the end of the day and experience a sense of accomplishment?

When bedtime rolls around and we’re focused more on what we weren’t able to accomplish than what we got done, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate our expectations. There’s only so much any one of us can do.

Do I schedule time for those activities that “recharge my batteries”?

Sometimes it isn’t about doing less but instead, doing those things that energize us. Taking a walk with my hubby after supper, even when I don’t feel like it, is usually a better option than watching “one more episode” of a TV program. And if I plop in front of “the tube” for hours, I feel drained. If I, however, pick up a book—or two or three—I feel as if I’ve accomplished something, even if said books are fiction.

And speaking of TV and books …

Can I read for leisure or watch my favourite TV program without nodding off?

It’s a pretty good indication that our days may be just a little too full—or that we need to add physical activity to our schedule—if we fall asleep during our downtime.

Am I too busy to exercise?

I know it may seem impossible to include exercise in our day, but it’s important to remember that regular physical activity usually makes it easier to think clearly and work more efficiently. Plus, it will likely help us sleep more soundly. Bonus!

And don’t forget that exercise doesn’t necessarily mean spending endless hours at the gym or running for miles every day. Find a physical activity you enjoy (swimming, biking, joining a recreational sports team) and keep at it, and watch the changes happen.

Do most of my meals come from the freezer or the drive-through at my local fast food restaurant?

I am definitely averting my eyes and humming as I share this thought. I have big dreams of planning the week’s menu and shopping for necessary ingredients on the weekend, but it just doesn’t happen. One day. One day.

Does my house look like a bomb fell most days?

My home will never, ever, ever get the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. However, I do want to do better. And for this to happen, I have to schedule “hometending,” as one of my friends calls it. In order to add sufficient time each day, something else has to go—but not necessarily downtime.

Do I consider time with family and friends just one more thing to scratch off my To Do list?

If we feel like spending time with the important people in our life is an inconvenience and keeps us from doing what we feel we should be doing—or what we truly want to do—it’s time to rework our schedule and possibly, take a closer look at our priorities.

Do those things I feel called to do (like writing a book for instance) keep getting pushed to the bottom of the list?

If there is a dream that just won’t go away, it’s quite possible the Lord has placed that dream in our heart. There will always be responsibilities that seem more important that divert us from pursuing the calling. We may think it isn’t realistic or that we could never actually do what it is, but I encourage you to set some time aside. Really pray about it and “get your feet wet.”

Do you feel as if you want to write a book? Read books on the writing craft. Attend a workshop or a conference. Connect with a Facebook group for writers. There are dozens, if not hundreds. But most of all, you’ll have to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), remembering that first drafts are often much different than the final version.

No matter what your calling, ask God to open the doors before you—and be willing to walk through each one.

Do I set aside time to study the Bible and prayer each day?

As Christians, this is the key question. If we are not studying God’s Word and praying regularly, our agenda will never fall in line. If we don’t have time to pursue our First Love, it’s a guarantee that we are too busy.

Scroll down to the comments form to share your thoughts.

Tweetables:

Let your priorities guide your schedule.

Don’t forget to schedule downtime.

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Small Steps Add Up

I had the chance to guest-post at InScribe Writers Online this week, on small steps and perseverance in the writing journey.

I think it was Phyllis A. Whitney, in her Guide to Fiction Writing, who compared getting published to a train arriving at a station. If that train is a breakthrough of some sort, for you or I to benefit, we have to be diligent in the small steps of showing up at the station, bags packed and ready to go… [Pop on over to read the rest, and check out the other writers’ posts as well. Link: Small Steps Add Up.]

On the Wonder of Flying

Last week I had the opportunity to share a guest post at the Castle Gate Press blog, on a “behind the scenes” aspect of writing Without Proof.

Flying has always caught at my imagination, and this post let me chat about how it led to the small plane flight in the novel. You can read it here: Behind the Scenes: Author Janet Sketchley and the Wonder of Flying.

Guest Post: Cracks of Light in the Darkness

Cracks of Light in the Darkness

by Steph Beth Nickel

Today Christians around the globe will gather to solemnly commemorate Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. Whenever it is overcast and rainy, we think, “How appropriate.” It is truly “the darkest day” of the year—no matter what the weather.

The sinless Saviour was humiliated, beaten, and then nailed to a Roman cross. While we won’t go into detail, suffice it to say it was one of the cruelest forms of execution ever devised.

As believers, we may rarely stop to consider the implications in any more than a fleeting manner. How often do we take the time to contemplate what the Lord did and allow ourselves to be overcome with reverence and gratitude? This day—or any day—is a good one to do just that.

But as we consider the darkness, we must also focus on those cracks of light.

Jesus the Light

The Light Shines Through

Jesus prayed for those who would put Him to death. In Luke 23:34 we read, “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’” (ESV).

That should truly amaze us. Though He was fully God, He was also fully man and would suffer as any other individual who had been put to death in this way.

As He was dying, the Son of God was thinking of His mother, Mary. He knew she would need someone to care for her after He was gone and He assigned this task to His trusted disciple John. What an expression of selflessness and love!

And many a sermon has been preached on the Lord’s words as recorded in John 19:30: “It is finished!” We know it wasn’t only the fact that His suffering would soon be over. Jesus knew all along that to make the way for us to be right with the Father He had to take our sin upon Himself and suffer the punishment we deserved.

Invited into the Light

And one of my favourite verses in all of Scripture is Matthew 27:51. In the ESV, the first part of the verse reads like this: “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.”

The fact that this curtain (or veil) was torn in this way is miraculous. It was 60 feet long, 30 feet high, and as thick as the palm of one’s hand. This was no act of man.

And most awesome was what this act of God represented. No longer are believers in the Lord denied access to the Holy of Holies. We are invited into the Throne Room of Heaven because of Jesus’ death. Now that’s something to marvel at!

While we will celebrate Jesus Christ’s resurrection on Sunday, we can see that even on this, the darkest day, the Light shines through.

Our meditation on these truths should not be restricted to one weekend a year. Will you consider setting aside time to do so on a regular basis?

And when your life seems shrouded in darkness and you can’t see the way out, will you turn your eyes toward the One who is the Light of the World (John 8:12)?

Tweetable: Jesus Christ is the Light who shines in the darkness.

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Guest Post: Interview with Brock Daniels, Hero

Brock Daniels is the hero of HL Wegley’s new political thriller, Voice in the Wilderness. Here’s an interview that’s not in the novel, but it could easily have happened “off-stage.”

Background: A reporter is sent to interview Brock Daniels, after he clears customs at LAX. He’s returning from a mission trip to Guatemala, where he encountered Ebola in a place the disease has never been seen. Though cleared to travel, the media’s reporting that Brock might have been exposed.

REPORTER: Mr. Brock Daniels?

BROCK: Yes, ma’am. Who’s asking?

REPORTER: I’m a reporter for a local newspaper. May I have a few minutes of your time?

BROCK: This is LAX. What you mean by a local newspaper?

REPORTER: I work for the LA Times. Do you have a few minutes?

BROCK: I’ve got more than a few minutes. We just missed our flight due to spending eight hours being poked, prodded, and interrogated.

REPORTER: That’s one of the things I wanted to ask you about. We heard that the W.H.O. was here talking to you. Is it true that you were exposed to Ebola in Guatemala?

BROCK: Bad news travels fast. But we don’t know that we were exposed to Ebola.

REPORTER: We? Does that include the young lady with you?

BROCK: Yes. This is Julia Weiss.

REPORTER: So are you two a couple?

BROCK: I, uh …

JULIA: Brock, I think I’ll excuse myself and let you talk to this nice lady.

BROCK: Thanks, Julia … I think.

REPORTER: Okay, Mr. Daniels. What were you doing in Guatemala that exposed you to Ebola?

BROCK: Like I said, we don’t know if we were exposed. Four adults from my church were chaperoning a team of high schoolers on a short-term mission project helping people in a remote village. One of the young girls in the village became very sick. I had heard Ebola symptoms described by missionaries who had seen the disease in Africa. There’s never been a case of Ebola in Central America, but I was suspicious. So, we found medical help and a doctor confirmed that she had Ebola.

REPORTER: How many people got sick?

BROCK: As far as I know, just the one girl. Look, I’ve been up for twenty-four hours, and I’m really tired. I’ll answer a few more questions for you, unless I don’t like where the questions are going.

REPORTER: Fair enough. Didn’t you plan to pitch in the major leagues? Someone said they clocked your fastball as high as 105 miles-per-hour.

BROCK: Someone has a big mouth. Things change. So do plans.

REPORTER: They sure do. Now you have quite a reputation as a blogger. What do you write about?

BROCK: I write about the truth—truth in morality and ethics, in theology, history, philosophy, and religion. And I write about the state, what it should and should not be doing. Every few weeks I make a prediction about what will happen in the USA, based upon recent events and trends. Those posts tend to go viral.

REPORTER: How many people does your blog reach?

BROCK: Over a million.

REPORTER: My, oh my. A million followers? I understand that your posts are heavily critical of President Hannan.

BROCK: He’s certainly given the citizens of the United States plenty of reasons to criticize him. He violates the Constitution at every turn, using policies in the agencies and departments, coupled with executive orders. He’s emasculating our military and bankrupting the nation. Now, he’s prosecuting people of faith for simply living out their beliefs as they’ve always done in America. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

REPORTER: It sounds like you have it in for the president.

BROCK: Ma’am … I think he has it in for us, the citizens. And, especially, for me.

REPORTER: Some people call Brock Daniels a prophet, the voice crying in the wilderness. What do you say to—

BROCK: I can’t control what people say about me. But the truth is, I’m just a struggling writer who’s a bit of a Christian apologist.

REPORTER: Changing the subject. You never did tell me … are you and Ms. Weiss a couple?

BROCK: No. Julia’s a wonderful woman, but not for me.

REPORTER: So is there a special woman in Brock Daniels’ life?

BROCK: I don’t know. I thought there was. But she’s been away for a long time.

REPORTER: Can you give us a clue who you’re talking about?

BROCK: She’s going through some pretty tough times. Her mother and her father, a US senator, were killed in a plane crash a while ago.

REPORTER: The daughter of a dead US senator … you must be talking about Katheryn Banning?

BROCK: Yeah. KC and I have known each other since we were kids. We were pretty close growing up, then … well, things happened. Her father moved the family to DC and, after he intentionally split us up, we haven’t gotten back together.

REPORTER: You don’t sound very happy about that. Were you two—

BROCK: Now, I don’t like where your questions are going. Are you sure that someone in the Hannan Administration didn’t put you up to this? Probing into the life of Abe Hannan’s public enemy number one, Brock Daniels?

REPORTER: Well, actually … uh—

BROCK: That’s what I thought. How much is he paying you? Am I next on his hit list?

REPORTER: Silence

BROCK: Okay. Tell you what … since you’re so interested in my love life, maybe you’d like me to kiss you. I hear it’s a really fun way to spread Ebola. Hey, Ms. LA Times! There’s no need to leave. I think I feel a coughing fit coming on.

===

What if your blog could save the nation, but posting to it might cost your life?

Two extraordinary people …

Voice in the Wilderness, by HL Wegley

As catastrophes drive the US into martial law, all eyes are on America, waiting to see what emerges. KC Banning, network specialist, discovers President Hannan’s tyrannical plans and is branded a terrorist, sending her fleeing the Beltway to find her childhood soulmate and protector, Brock Daniels. Brock, a writer and man of faith, gives CPR to a dying nation through his blog, which is read by military members still loyal to the Constitution. But starting a grassroots insurgency while reconciling KC’s and Brock’s broken relationship proves difficult. When Hannan sends Special Forces to kill Brock and KC, starting a war in the Central Oregon desert, reconciliation, like staying alive, might be impossible.

born for a time such as this.

Set in Washington DC and near Crooked River Ranch in the Central Oregon desert, Voice in the Wilderness, Book 1 of the Against All Enemies Series, is a political thriller, with romance, about two people who must decide if they’re willing to sacrifice their lives to prevent the USA from becoming the Dystopian States of America.

H L Wegley

H. L. Wegley served as an Air Force Intelligence Analyst and a Weather Officer. In civilian life, he worked as a research scientist, publishing in the scientific literature, then developed Boeing computing systems for 20 years before he and his wife of 50 years retired near Seattle. He is a multi-published author with a 4-book inspirational thriller series, 2 nonfiction books, and 4 more novels on the way.

Link to the author’s website: hlwegley.com

Guest Post: The Roaring Twenties in Buckeye Lake

The Roaring Twenties in Buckeye Lake

by Amy C. Blake

From the time I learned about the Buckeye Lake Amusement Park that once graced the shores of Buckeye Lake, Ohio, I’ve been intrigued with the idea of setting a book there. In the early to middle 1900s, Buckeye Lake was considered the Playground of Ohio. The amusement park (actually, two parks set side by side) drew thousands each day from Easter to Labor Day. Buckeye Lake’s ballrooms—the Crystal and the Pier—featured big name bands from the Swing era, like Benny Goodman, Lawrence Welk, and Louis Armstrong.

Colorblind, by Amy C. BlakeMy newly released Christian suspense novel, Colorblind, is set in modern-day Buckeye Lake, where the amusement park is a mere memory. The main character, Christy Kane, is a music major who began an internship at her mega-church pastor-father’s church, but had to leave when his misdeeds became public knowledge. Instead, she goes to Buckeye Lake to help a distant relative, Aunt Jo, make a go of her School of Music and Dance in the (fictionally) rebuilt Pier Ballroom.

Beyond the difficulties she endures because of her daddy’s fall from grace, working at the Pier Ballroom, which sits on Buckeye Lake itself, forces Christy to face her greatest fear—water. Also, her fellow music volunteers harbor racial and socioeconomic antagonisms that encumber their attempts to prepare for the Pier’s Grand Reopening, and Christy fears Aunt Jo will lose her ballroom to bankruptcy. Christy also finds a diary written by Lillian, a girl who lived in Buckeye Lake in the 1920s, and soon discovers that dangerous events from Lillian’s time are being reenacted in the present.

In writing Colorblind, I enjoyed researching Buckeye Lake, Big Band musicians, and 1920s slang to incorporate into my story. However, I was surprised (and disturbed) to discover that Buckeye Lake was also the location for two huge Ku Klux Klan rallies—one in 1923, the other in 1925. In Colorblind, I incorporate some of the racial issues from the 1920s into Lillian’s story line and show the effects of such prejudices in Christy’s world.

Colorblind is the second book in my On the Brink Christian suspense series (Whitewashed released in February, 2015). The books in this series follow three homeschooled friends on their individual journeys into adulthood and so can be read in any order.

Colorblind is now available on Amazon in paperback and e-book formats. I hope you’ll pick up your copy today!

Amy C. BlakeAward-winning author Amy C. Blake is a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother of four. She has an M.A. in English from Mississippi College and has written articles, devotionals, and short stories for a number of publications. You can connect with her on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. She’d love for you to visit her website at amycblake.com for tips on homeschooling, advice for the rookie pastor’s wife, and helps for the Christian life. You can also find more information on her website about her novels—Whitewashed, Colorblind, and The Trojan Horse Traitor.

 

Guest Post: Are You Taking On Too Much?

Are You Taking On Too Much?

by Steph Beth Nickel

I usually have my post to Janet well ahead of the deadline, but not this month. In fact, I needed a nudge—even though I had a reminder in my day planner. Sometimes that just isn’t enough.

I have recently started covering for our church administrator while she’s on maternity leave. I enjoy the job, but it does leave me scrambling because of the other responsibilities I am also juggling.

This post may very well be a case of “do what I say, not what I do,” but here goes.

Just how can we determine if we should take on any given task? Here are six ways you may want to consider the next time someone asks, “Oh, could you …”

Taking on too much

Pray About It

If you’re a Christian this may seem self-evident, but how many times do we take on something without asking the Lord for wisdom? We can’t do all the things that are asked of us—not even all the good things.

Evaluate the Task

How long will it take? Does it fit naturally into our schedule? Will we have to set aside something that should remain a priority? Will it hinder our ability to fulfill our current tasks effectively? Will it steal the downtime that is crucial to our mental and emotional well-being?

Give Something Up

I once heard a speaker say she never took on a new task without setting aside one she was already doing. Talk about self-control! I can’t see myself doing this—at least not yet.

Remember … No is Not a Bad Word

Some of us have difficulty saying no when we’re asked to do something. We don’t want to let the other person down. We don’t want to miss an opportunity God has for us. This is another key reason we need to pray before we take on a task. God promises to give wisdom to those who ask. Plus, He will give us the ability to graciously decline if that’s what’s necessary. We must remember, too, that it is His responsibility to deal with how the other person responds. We shouldn’t buckle under pressure if we are confident God has not called us to a specific task—at least not at this time.

Consult Your Spouse or a Trusted Friend

If it’s going to put a strain on the relationship with our spouse, it’s likely best to beg off. I have such an easygoing hubby sometimes I don’t think to ask him what he things of such and such a decision. He is always gracious and never makes me feel bad about making up my own mind, but I really should keep him in the loop … and not always after the fact. And whether we’re married or not, a trusted friend can often give us a perspective we can’t see because we’re just too close to the situation.

Finally … Pray Some More

Sometimes we take on something and it’s good for a season, but we just keep doing it even after that season is over. Praying over our schedule regularly is a good habit to get into. As I’ve often said, no matter how much I love my lists, the only To Do list that really matters is the one God has prepared for me. And the only way to discover what’s on that list is to dig into His Word and pray—lots!

So … are you taking on too much? Why not review these pointers and make changes to your To Do list as needed. I just may have to do the same.

Scroll down to the comments form to share your thoughts.

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Guest Post: 12 Ways to Make the Write Resolution

12 Ways to Make the Write Resolution

by Steph Beth Nickel

The New Year is rapidly approaching and many of us will soon be setting our goals (aka resolutions) for 2016. Where is writing on your list?

If it’s close to the top, here are a dozen writing and writing-related goals you may want to include and tips on how to do so:

  1. Be on the lookout for inspiration.

Some people record ideas, snippets of conversation, random words and phrases, etc. in a notebook or on their electronic device. Make it a habit to do so. Don’t simply trust your memory; it’s amazing how quickly “that perfect idea” can vanish.

  1. Set up your writer’s nook.

What do you need around you when you write? Pictures of your family? A shelf of skills development books? A cozy corner with a comfortable chair, your journal, and a stash of gel pens? A clutter-free desk with only your laptop and a cup of your favorite beverage? The busyness of a crowded coffee shop? Create your perfect space and if at all possible, don’t do anything besides writing and writing-related tasks there.

  1. Enlist your support system.

If others take your writing seriously, you are more likely to as well. Explain to your family that you are going to set aside time every day (at least Monday through Friday) to write. Ask them to give you your space, only interrupting if it’s something that legitimately can’t wait. And from your end of things, don’t answer emails, the telephone, or the door during your writing time.

  1. Write every day.

Set aside a specific time every day to write and record the time in your planner and / or set an alarm on your cell phone to remind you—at least until it’s a habit.

  1. Set a specific writing goal.

Do you want to write a new blog post each week? A short ebook or novella for publication online every two to six months? A full-length novel or nonfiction book for print within the year? Break each task into bite-sized pieces and set deadlines for each piece.

  1. Read skills development books.

Read up-to-date books on general writing topics and on specifics that are of interest to you. You may want to read a new book every month or two. For most of us, that would be an achievable goal. Don’t forget to incorporate the skills you are reading about into your work.

  1. Read other books as well.

It’s amazing what you can learn about good writing just by reading a variety of books in a variety of genres. Read with a notebook on hand so you can record words / phrases / sentences that appeal to you. Jot down thoughts about what makes the writing amazing—or terrible. Learning opportunities are all around us.

  1. Enter writing contests regularly.

Entering contests is a great skills development exercise—even if you never win. You learn about writing with specific guidelines in mind. You learn about submitting on a deadline. There are countless contests you can research online. Just a word of caution . . . be sure that the contest sponsor is reputable.

  1. Join an online writing challenge.

I participate in OctPoWriMo (October Poetry Writing Month) and PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) each year. In October I write 31 poems and in November I come up with 30 ideas for picture books. I often attend Camp NaNoWriMo once or twice a year but have never participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), though I would like to do so one of these years. You can learn about these and other challenges online. Just type “writing challenge” into your search engine and see what catches your attention.

  1. Attend a writers’ conference or one-day workshop.

From skills development to networking . . . from inspiration to feeling understood . . . there’s nothing quite like hanging out with other writers and industry pros. Don’t feel intimidated. No matter how far along the path, every writer has more to learn. And every writer was a newbie at some point.

  1. Join or start a writers’ group.

I had the privilege of being one of the original four members of Women Writing for Christ. Over a decade later, we still meet monthly (except in the winter) and share the adventure of writing. We each write in different genres and for different audiences, but it is a wonderful opportunity to encourage one another. It’s a highlight of my month.

  1. Be patient with yourself.

Remember it takes time to develop new habits. Add one or two new goals each month. It’s much easier than trying to incorporate everything all at once.

I hope you had a Most Blessed Christmas, and wish you a New Year overflowing with rich and abundant blessings!

What are some of your writing goals for 2016?  [Scroll down to join the conversation.]

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

The Trojan Horse Traitor, by Amy C. Blake

Amy C. BlakeAuthor Amy C. Blake visited earlier this year to talk about her novel, Whitewashed. (You can read that interview here.) Today, Amy returns to tell us about her newest release, The Trojan Horse Traitor.

Amy says:

I’m excited to share with you about my latest release, The Trojan Horse Traitor, a young adult fantasy novel about 13-year-old homeschooled pastor’s kid Levi Prince. Levi heads off to Camp Classic, a summer camp on Castle Island in the middle of Lake Superior, and instead finds himself in Terracaelum, a haven for mythical creatures that’s suspended above the lake.

As a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother of four, I love to read, and so do my children. We especially enjoy fantasy novels, but none of the books we read have homeschooled heroes. When Levi and Terracaelum entered my mind (I don’t remember exactly what made me dream them up), it was only natural that Levi be a redheaded, homeschooled pastor’s kid like my own children. Camp Classic came into being because we follow a Classical Christian educational system for our homeschool, and I thought it’d be intriguing to incorporate a story from Classical mythology into my plotline. I also thought it would be fun to make my runty main character tackle archery, fencing, canoeing, and wrestling, along with the torments of Latin verbs and History dates during summer break.

Here’s the blurb for The Trojan Horse Traitor:The Trojan Horse Traitor

Left on Castle Island to attend Camp Classic, thirteen-year-old homeschooler Levi Prince finds himself at the center of an enchanted world of amazing abilities, cloudy motives, and wicked beings that will challenge his very spirit. He begins to form friendships, but life at camp becomes more confusing as questionable activities and uncertain agendas bring about conflict that tests his character in ways he never expected. Finally, faced with a friend’s betrayal, Levi is forced to confront true evil. Will he find the courage to stand his ground, and to become the hero he was always meant to be?

The Trojan Horse Traitor is available in both e-book and paperback formats from Amazon. It’s also available from Barnes and Noble and Books a Million. I’m hosting a giveaway of two paperback copies of The Trojan Horse Traitor on Goodreads. You can enter now through December 14th.

Author Bio: Award-winning author Amy C. Blake is a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother of four. She has an M.A. in English from Mississippi College and has written articles, devotionals, and short stories for a number of publications. She’d love for you to visit her website at amycblake.com for tips on homeschooling, advice for the rookie pastor’s wife, and helps for the Christian life. You can also find more information on her website about her novels–Whitewashed, Colorblind, and The Trojan Horse Traitor.