When the writing stops – a RE-introduction

When the writing stops . . . I didn’t plan to write a book.  Fifteen years ago – no TEN years ago – I would have laughed at the prospect. I mean, maybe a little devotional or a sweet little encouraging gift book?

In The Beginning . . .

. . . I found fanfiction – I started reading stories and found some incredibly well-written pieces, and some not-so-well-written. After reading some of the not-so-good, and running out of the excellent, I decided that if I wanted to read good stories, then maybe I should think about writing some. So I did. I found somewhat of a following, and the instant gratification was AMAZING.

That’s when I met author Lorna Seilstad. She and a few other writers on the site were trying to make the transition from fanfiction to published original fiction. I joined their group, and I started writing in earnest.

Serious Writer? Me?

I joined ACFW, and started networking on email loops and blogs, started writing on Inkspirational Messages, and before my first ACFW conference, I already had friends “in the biz.” The first author who reached out to me outside of our beloved Inkspers was Kaye Dacus. I interacted on her blog, and when we met, she said, “you’ve got to meet Kathy Cretsinger.”

Sometime after that, I did, and joined the Ken-Ten (Kentucky/Tennessee) Writers’ Group. I was in the group a little over a year when I really started looking for someone to publish my book. Since it’s Christian Fiction of the “romantical” sort, I thought maybe Love Inspired. They asked for a full manuscript, but when all was said and done, they didn’t want it. I entered contests. Got the same scores no matter WHAT I did to it.

So I gave up. Kinda.

After the last rejection, I took a break from writing, my writing group, and this blessed blog. But it wouldn’t go away. I tried starting other books. I kept going back to Carolina Dream, the book of my heart. I don’t know what it was about that story.

So, after a year of upheaval, minor health issues, and a busy life in general, I felt the urge to go back to my writing group, and writing. In corresponding with Kathy, who is the unofficial leader of our group, she indicated that she was interested in my book. She had read it, she liked it, and, by the way, she had a publishing company, Mantle Rock Publishing.

I wasn’t sure. I mean, was I ready? Had I missed my opportunity? It’s kind of like the guy who drowned in a flood. He got to the Pearly Gates and asked God why He didn’t rescue him? God said, “Man, I sent you a raft, a boat, and a helicopter!”

I felt like this opportunity, and Kathy, was my helicopter. I still do.

Publishing Contract Signing with Mantle Rock Publishing, Kathy Cretsinger
Publishing Contract Signing with Mantle Rock Publishing, Kathy Cretsinger

What Next?

Currently, my book, still titled Carolina Dream, is in the hands of an editor who is doing wonderful things with it. A graphic artist is working on a cover. One of these days I’ll reveal that both here and on my author website.

In April, after I get up from keeling over at the sight of my new book, I’ll invite all of YOU to the launch party.

God didn’t want me to quit writing indefinitely, but he had things to show me in the interim. Things like watching two girls grow up into young women, go to college, suffer heartbreak, move away, etc. Things like helping a husband get ready for retirement somewhere down the road. Things like accepting some things as they are, and changing things that need to be changed. Just little things like that.

It all came down to this – when I decided to get back in the writing game, I re-read the story of my heart. Guess what? I still liked it. I still LIKE it.

God doesn’t give you a story that’s a dud. EVER.


Thanks for reading, and for having me back!


Regina Merrick

Inksper Wins Genesis Award

Saturday night, I sat glued to my computer screen watching the ACFW Awards Gala in Nashville, TN. Sure, I knew several of the finalists in both the Genesis and the Carol Award categories, but I there was one person’s name I couldn’t wait to hear called.

The Genesis Awards are for unpublished authors and the Carol Awards recognizes published authors. The gala starts with dinner, then gives away some special awards, and finally gets to the Genesis Awards.

After what seemed like forever, her category came. “And the nominees for the Genesis Speculative category are . . .”

I didn’t breathe, and I knew she wasn’t breathing either.

“And the winner is–Dawn Ford!”

I screamed. My daughter came running downstairs. I watched her take the stage and give her acceptance speech with such poise and grace.

Rom. 13:7 says to “give honor to those to whom honor is due,” and it’s certainly due Dawn. She has stuck with writing, and she’s prayed and sought God’s direction. She has worked hard at honing her craft, working and reworking stories, and sticking with the category of heart. We couldn’t be more proud.

It's hard to see everyone at once, but here's Dawn's flat posse.
It’s hard to see everyone at once, but here’s Dawn’s flat posse.

Her husband called me a little while after the gala concluded. He hadn’t be able to watch the whole thing because of work, but I was able send him this link. You can check it out, too, and see Dawn at the 36:40 on the counter.

Then, today in church, Dawn’s son was our song leader. He had to brag on his mom and lead a song of celebration in her honor.

And did I mention she took all her Inksper and writing buddies with her? She called us her Flat Posse, and she took us to meals and even to listen to the speakers. What a commitment to the learning of her peers!

Speaking of learning, another big surprise that occurred at ACFW was the announcement that Minnesota’s N.I.C.E. chapter was the Chapter of the Year. Our own Brenda Anderson is the president of Minnesota N.I.C.E. and this group was truly blessed by her leadership.

Lots of our Inksper friends took home awards, too, and we congratulate all of the finalists and winners in each category.


Congratulations, Dawn!!!

I’m so excited to share good news, today! The ACFW Genesis Awards just announced their finalists for 2016 and our own Dawn Ford is in the final three for Speculative Fiction!!!


Genesis AwardThe winners of each category will be announced on August 27, 2016 at the ACFW Conference Awards Gala in Nashville.

Congratulations to all the finalists! (See complete list of finalists >here<)

New Girl on the Blog!

Summer’s almost in the rear view mirror, football games have started, and there’s a new blogger bringing you Inkspirational messages! I’m Jenny McLeod Carlisle, and I’m so happy to have the opportunity to  become a part of this active, exciting community.

I have been writing stories since I could hold a pencil. I remember my Daddy reading to me on the front porch swing, and I particulary loved the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson. As I grew Little Women, Little House on the Prairie, Nancy Drew mysteries and Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague sparked my imagination.Jenny with glasses small

My church family played a huge part in my upbringing after my Mom and Dad divorced, so in many ways, my stories “preach to the choir”. Getting in touch with the spiritual aspect of a character’s life makes for a much richer story, whether adventure, mystery or romance.

While hubby and I both worked to support our family, I sought out groups of people who understood the borderline madness of fiction, and eventually met Hannah Alexander (a husband and wife team) and their editor friend Barbara Warren at the Ozark Creative Writer’s conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

I was  first published in non-fiction as a contributor to Gospel Tidings, a national publication of the churches of Christ. I now write a monthly column for  Ouachita Life, a magazine that is distributed in the southwest portion of Arkansas. This gives me the chance to share my memories and observations about life in general.  Recently, I have become a storyteller on Tales from the South, an internationally broadcast radio program. This is a great venue, with a live audience instructed to laugh in all of the right places, and a very gracious editor who helps keep the stories on point.TFTS-better small

Membership in American Christian Fiction Writers, and in particular our local Arkansas chapter has encouraged me to make my dreams of being a published author a reality. I am now represented by Terry Burns with Hartline Literary Agency. While he communicates with potential publishers, I continue to create, and wait for the chance to revise my work to make it a better “fit” for the marketplace. I am a huge believer in God’s Plan, as outlined in Jeremiah 29:11, and I am eager to see what he has in store for me! Can’t wait to share my journey with you.


Inksper Books & Starbucks Bundle

Personally, I’m not a coffee drinker (I know, that’s practically sacriligious, especially for a Minnesota Lutheran, don’tchya know!), but I know many writers who would be lost without their daily cup(s) of coffee.

It’s with that in mind that the Inkspers are donating a Books & Starbucks Bundle to the ACFW Foundation Fall 2014 Online Auction. The Foundation’s purpose is to provide national conference scholarships and local-chapter scholarships.


Inksper Books & Starbucks BundleIncluded in this bundle is:

1 – $10 Starbucks coffee gift card

WHEN LOVE CALLS by Lorna Seilstad, historical romance

WHILE LOVE STIRS by Lorna Seilstad, historical romance

SWEET ON THE COWGIRL by Rose Ross Zediker, historical romance

CHAIN OF MERCY by Brenda S. Anderson, contemporary family drama

McKENZIE’S OREGON OPERATION by Shari Barr, children mystery

RODEO ASHES by Shannon Taylor Vannatter, contemporary romance

RODEO SONG by Shannon Taylor Vannatter, contemporary romance

THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTER by Linda Fulkerson, memoir

If you’d like to get an early start on your Christmas shopping (or keep the bundle for yourself!), then hurry over to the silent auction and place your bid!


Ch… Ch… Ch … Changes

It’s been a crazy year at the Anderson household, a year with a lot of changes, some good, some bad, and some that you just shake your head at. You know how that goes.

Starting the year, we had two presidents in our household. I’m the President of the Minnesota chapter of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and my husband was the President for his professional group. His term came to an end in September, while mine continues until the end of 2014. Then, there’s a good chance I’ll be re-elected.

That was the easy stuff. Real change began happening in spring, and it happened in torrents.

My debut novel, CHAIN OF MERCY, released on April 22

Our daughter’s senior recital was on April 25

Her final college concert was on April 27

GraduationShe graduated college on May 3

Our youngest had his last-ever high school band concert on May 13

Book launch for Chain of Mercy was on May 15

Honors ceremony for high school seniors was held May 28

Scholarship night was June 4

Our youngest graduated high school on June 8

His party was on June 14

Then we hurried off to Branson, MO for a too-brief respite!

MP900321075[1]Life was actually quiet for a month, until July 22 when our middle child had jaw surgery. He had a drastic overbite that needed to be corrected. For six weeks post-surgery he subsisted on smoothies, and I become the queen of smoothie making. He even gave liquefied hamburger a try. Once. After six weeks he graduated to noodles, then finally non-smoothified hamburger. He hasn’t had a smoothie since.

In August, we brought our *baby* up to college. <sniff>

And finally, in September, my next release, Pieces of Granite, was supposed to come out. That changed to October, which changed to November. And then I was given the option to stick with the struggling publisher or go indie.

I chose indie.

So now I’ve established my own press, Vivant Press (Vivant means living), and I’m studying up on the process. Yikes!

To top this fall off, this past weekend our youngest tore some muscles by his ankle during a marching band event. So now he walks around campus with that fun black boot and crutches. Needless to say, he’s not doing a lot of marching with his band right now.

Ah, yes. What would life be without changes?! After this year, I’d sort of like to find out!

Running Amuck

This may be the most scattered post I’ve ever written. But my brain is a bit scattered right now. I’ve gotten up at 5 stupid o’clock on a Saturday to drive two hours to watch my son in Cross Country Track. Which really isn’t much of a spectator sport. You watch them start, then you wait and wait and wait, until they finish. I’ve also been to almost Missouri three times for track meets. Track ended last Tuesday and basketball started on Thursday. He plays basketball too.

St. LouisI did actually make it to Missouri to the ACFW Conference. Since I have two cousins who live there, the only way I could spend time with them was to only attend the conference one day. I felt like I missed a lot of the conference and seeing friends, but I had fun with my cousins. I told my roommate that my cousin and I were going to run amuck. My cousin said, as long as we’re in by 8:00. We went to the top of the Arch and ate Italian, but we were in by 8:00. The picture was taken from the top of the Arch.

I struggled with a book all summer and finally when school started, the piece of the puzzle clicked into place and the words flew from my fingertips. I’m finishing my final read through today and turning it in by my deadline tomorrow. Two down, four to go for my current contract.

I lost eighteen pounds, but lately I’ve been to a lot of appreciation dinners and political meet and greets, so I’m stuck on my diet. And I haven’t gotten back in gear with my daily treadmill for at least 15 minutes since I got back from the conference. But I’m going to. Once I get this book turned in, oh the things I’ll do.

That’s been my mantra lately—once I get this book turned in, I’ll. . . The main thing I’m looking forward to is reading.

I met Jennifer Slattery at an ACFW Conference a few years back, so when I heard she got a contract, I wasJennifer Slattery thrilled and couldn’t wait to read her book—Beyond I Do. I love the title, since so many brides don’t think past the extravagant wedding and I love the sweet cover.

Since then, Jennifer’s publisher asked for my endorsement on her second book—When Dawn Breaks. It came during crunch time—I was about to leave for ACFW and I had a deadline. I had one free night at the conference, so I decided I’d start the book. If I liked it, I’d make time to read it. If I didn’t, I’d tell Jennifer’s publisher I had a deadline.

I loved it and finished it after I got home, when my brain was still too travel rattled to do anything but read. I ordered Beyond I Do this week. It will get here Thursday. Perfect timing. Next time I see Jennifer, I’m going to have someone get a new not orange picture of us.

Jennifer Slattery coverWill seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them apart?

Marriage . . . it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.

Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignite a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.

November is National Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is a challenge to writers to write a book in a month. By the time I heard of it, I was already published and it’s never fallen right in my contracts for me to participate. But this time, it does. I’m planning to write my next contracted book in November. It’s not due until March. In December and January, I’m going to write a book I’ve wanted to write for a long time.

In February, I want to read Denise Hunter’s new book. It releases in December and I may not be able to wait. In fact, I’ll probably make time to read The Wishing Season as soon as I get it.

Living side-by-side, a fledgling chef and a big-hearted contractor find a delicious attraction.The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter
Trouble is, their chemistry could spoil their dreams.

Spirited PJ McKinley has the touch when it comes to food. Her dream of opening her own restaurant is just one building short of reality. So when a Chapel Springs resident offers her beloved ancestral home to the applicant with the best plan for the house, PJ believes it’s a contest she was meant to win.

Contractor Cole Evans is confident, professional, and swoon-worthy—but this former foster kid knows his life could have turned out very differently. When Cole discovers the contest, he believes his home for foster kids in transition has found its saving grace. All he has to do is convince the owner that an out-of-towner with a not-for-profit enterprise is good for the community.

But when the eccentric philanthropist sees PJ and Cole’s proposals, she makes an unexpected decision: the pair will share the house for a year to show what their ideas are made of. Now, with Cole and the foster kids upstairs and PJ and the restaurant below, day-to-day life has turned into out-and-out competition—with some seriously flirtatious hallway encounters on the side. Turns out in this competition, it’s not just the house on the line, it’s their hearts.

Sigh. Can’t wait.

Rodeo Queen Nostalgia

I’m celebrating my new release, Rodeo Queen by giving away two print copies. Answer the question at the end of the post or comment daily for the next twoWriting 1st book 1999 nostalgic weeks to enter the drawing. Deadline: Nov 16, 11:59 pm central time.

No, I was never a rodeo queen. But I’ve been feeling nostalgic about my latest release, Rodeo Queen. Why would my recently  released book make me feel nostalgic? Because it formed in my head as a teenager. It was the story that wouldn’t go away until I finally realized it was a book around 1996. Then it took me three more years to get a hand me down computer and write it.

That’s me in 1999 writing my first ever book about a interior decorator with a stalker and the private detective who protects her. My husband took the picture and it’s my favorite. I was so involved in my story, I didn’t even know he’d taken the picture until we got the film developed. Yep, back then the pictures actually got out of the camera and you didn’t know how they looked until you picked them up from Walmart. I love the picture because it reminds me how supportive he’s been of my writing–from day one. He didn’t complain that I was ignoring or neglecting him, he just took a picture of me doing what I love.

Back to the story, after fifty-two rejection letters on that first book, countless others on six more books–I stopped counting at 200–fourteen years, and seven published books later, that first book I ever wrote releases this month. Rodeo Queen is a reworked version of my first story.

The original version was set in rural Arkansas. Rodeo Queen is the 5th title in my Texas rodeo series and is set in Aubrey, the Fort Worth Stockyards historical district, and Medina, Texas. My heroine morphed into the owner of a blingy western clothing store and a rodeo queen–which lent itself well to the stalker angle. The hero became a Texas Ranger. And in the new version,they were high school sweethearts.

The Medina part was originally in there and it makes me nostalgic too. My hero and herione visit his grandfather’s ranch in Medina twice during the course of the story. The ranch is based on my father-in-law’s ranch in Medina, near San Antonio. My father-in-law passed away, but we still visit his wife–Texas mom–once a year.

I’ve heard countless authors say they have their first awful manuscripts moldering in a drawer, that they’ll never see the light of day, and they shouldn’t. I wasn’t willing to let my story die. I didn’t go back and try to fix that original manuscript with all the knowledge I’ve gained from countless writers’ meetings and conferences, I started from scratch.

Rodeo Queen by Shannon Taylor VannatterAnd I like the new version better. Readers often ask me which of my books is my favorite. I’ve never really been able to answer that question. It’s like picking your favorite child or pet. I love all of my books–otherwise I wouldn’t have written them.

But I think I’ll play favorites now–Rodeo Queen–hands down.


Until she starts receiving threatening letters from a stalker. The good news is, the Texas Ranger assigned to her case is none other than her former sweetheart Mitch Warren—the man who chose his career over love.

Mitch vows to focus on protecting the woman he’s never forgotten. But Caitlyn stirs up memories best left in the past. When Mitch insists on hiding Caitlyn away on his family’s San Antonio ranch, will he keep things professional or seek out a second chance?

Remember to enter the drawing daily with each new post from all the inkspers. And if you can’t wait or don’t win, here are a few purchase links for your convenience 🙂

Christian Book


Barnes and Noble


Question of the day–for readers or writers. Have you ever had a story in your head that wouldn’t go away?


I do not, by any means, consider myself an influential person. I am an encourager by nature, and sometimes I think THAT is what my role is in this alternate reality we call “writing.”

Stacy Acevero wrote a great article entitled 10 ways to impress your industry’s influencers on Ragan.com. You can read it HERE.

When I read this, I realized that much of this is what I had been doing, as a card-carrying people-pleaser, all along.

 Follow the “cool kids” blogs.

 COMMENT on those blogs.

 Follow them on social media.

 Blog ABOUT them!

 My first visit to ACFW was such an eye-opener. I actually met people who knew MY name, mainly from carrying on conversations with them on Facebook or their blog comments. I started dropping their names (and tagging them! Don’t forget to tag!!) in my Inkspirational Messages posts, and they noticed.

 I also learned, from getting to know these illustrious people that I found out later were just as anxious and insecure as me, that they got where they are in the industry by doing exactly the same thing. Maybe they met their agent as a result of being active in a writing organization such as ACFW. Maybe they became friends with someone who has FRIENDS. You know what I mean.


 The point is, getting your name out there IS half the battle. Me? I thought I had dropped out of sight, when lo and behold, a few weeks ago I received an email from an ACFW officer asking to use my 2011 blog post about my first ACFW experience on the ACFW BLOG! How cool is THAT?

Those little things mean a lot. It gets the juices flowing just to know that there are folks out there that value your opinion.

 It’s not just good for business. It’s good for the soul.

My Go To Gal

Agent. A word that once made me shudder for reasons I won’t go into here. For a long time, I went it alone. I signed contracts for six books without an agent. And put off getting one for as long as I could. But after the Heartsong Presents line changed hands and my editor didn’t make the transition, I decided it was time. Kicking and screaming and shuddering, I decided I’d have to start agent shopping. But they still scared me.

At the 2011 ACFW conference, I asked an author I’d met there who her agent was. She promptly took me to meet Karen Solem of Spencerhill Associates. Karen wasn’t scary either as she gave me her business card. When I got home from the conference, I decided to bite the bullet. I picked four agencies, including Karen’s, who’d been around awhile and had good reputations to query.

While I waited on answers, I talked to another very nice agent I’d met at ACFW and talked to her on the phone several times. She didn’t scare me, but her client list was already pretty full. Two other agents were interested, but weren’t in love with the proposal I sent them. I wanted an agent who loved romance like I do.

Then I heard back from Karen. She loved my proposal, loved my writing, but her client list was also full. She asked if she could forward my work to her newest agent, Nalini Akolekar. I said, sure.

The very next day, I received an e-mail from Nalini offering a contract. I shuddered all day, made a list of questions to ask her, and set up a time for her to call me the next day. When she called, her voice was so soothing. The first question I asked her was how to say her name: A cola car. Then she asked me how to say mine: Van Adder.

I learned that though Nalini was new as an agent, she’d been in the industry working in other positions for a number of years. She encouraged me to contact her clients. After we talked, I did and they sang Nalini’s praises. I talked to Nalini two more times and tried to explain why I was so hesitant to sign with her. I ended up spilling my guts about every bad thing that had happened to me during my hard knocks journey to publication. Okay, not everything, I didn’t want her to think I was a whiny bag.

She calmly listened and instead of thinking I was delusional or whiny, she was sympathetic and told me she understood. That I should take my time, but she hoped I’d sign with her. I took my time and prayed about it. A few weeks later, I signed the contract. And I’ve never regretted the decision.

Nalini checks with me regularly to see how my deadlines are coming and if I have any problems. She congratulates me on Facebook when my books release. And when I have difficulties or hair-pulling issues, she does a lot of hand holding on the phone with her soothing voice.

Several months ago, another past hard knock came up while writing one of my contracted books that could have messed up everything. I had to tell Nalini the rest of my story. She didn’t chastise me for not telling her up front, held my hand, and handled the situation smoothly. When it was over, she told me in her soothing voice that I’d seen enough of the ugly side of the industry and she wanted to help turn things around for me

As I near completion of my current contract, she e-mailed me a few months ago and said she wanted to set up a time to call me and talk about my next project. I knew she wouldn’t like what I had to say. I have this French guy who’s been bugging me for years. But his book is a longer length and I only have three chapters written. Since I’ve only had category length books published, the trade length publishers want a completed manuscript.

In the wake of one of the longer length publishers cutting their fiction line, I knew Nalini would want me to stick with shorter books for now. And wait for the industry to get better, then worry about my French guy. But it’s not just the French guy. I’m long-winded which makes it a challenge for me to write short books.

She called and I told her I want to spend Sept. – Dec. finishing my French guy’s story. In her soothing voice, she said, “Okay, just don’t wait too long before getting another proposal out.” Before we ended the call, I heeded her wisdom and decided to put together another proposal for a short book and send it out, then concentrate on my French guy. That way, I don’t fade away while I get this French guy out of my head. And if the industry improves, I’ll have a completed longer book.

And she’s right. Since then, another trade length publisher bit the dust. For now, I need to stick to where my bread is buttered–in the shorter length realm.

Not only does Nalini know the industry, I’ve never failed to feel better after I talk to her.