Writing Time

This past month has been filled with writing events and time spent with fellow authors.  April 8th I spent time with memoir writer Gail Kittleson in Boone, Iowa for our first ever ACFW Iowa writer’s meeting. It was a small group, but it was powerful in topics and discussion. Gail even put together a wonderful activity that spurred each of us on in our creativity for our stories.


Gail has a new story out titled In Times Like These (see the above photo). I’m reading it now and loving it! Get your copy from Amazon here.

Dawn and Mary at Pitchapalooza
Dawn and Mary at Pitchapalooza

On April 15th I went to the Nebraska Writer’s Guild Pitchapalooza conference in Omaha, Nebraska. There I learned how to more effectively pitch to editors and agents. Chip MacGregor, from MacGregor Literary Agency came to speak to the attendees. He and Linda Camancho from Prospect Agency took appointments to listen to and critique the pitches from the conference-goers. If you get a chance to go to a Pitchapalooza, I highly recommend it to polish up your content and presentation.


Earlier last week I had a chance to spend time with fellow authors Mary Connealy, Erica Vetsch, Lorna Seilstad, and Bonnie Lacy at a writing retreat. With no internet, I was able to get the majority of one of my manuscripts revised for a different ending than first envisioned. Not too bad for a couple day retreat.


Dawn and Stephanie Ludwig at WordsowersAt the end of last week I attended the Wordsowers Conference in Bellevue, Nebraska at our own Stephanie Ludwig’s church. Wordsowers did an amazing job of getting qualified presenters for several different topics to help the Christian authors in their writing craft. I laughed along with Sherri Shackelford in adding humor to your writing, learned how to make my writing more active with Cheryl St. John, and had Jennifer Slattery bring fullness to my story arc. All in all it was a terrific conference! The best part, however, was spending time with all of my author friends, including our former Inksper Rose Zediker.

Rose at Wordsowers

Now, all I have to do is apply what I’ve taken in the past month to ensure a novel you won’t want to put down.


Splickety LogoShamelss plug: for those of you who want to break into writing, or love to read/write flash fiction, there is still four days to enter Splickety Publishing Group’s Havok contest, Heroes vs. Villains. See the information on that contest here. Splickety editors do a great job of editing your work and letting you know how to improve your story, whether or not you get published in the magazine. It’s well worth the ten dollars you spend for the contest, plus you get a year’s subscription to Havok magazine when you enter! That is an amazing deal, and I’m not just saying that because I work with Splickety.


Happy writing!!

What should I read next? Spring Edition

With spring comes tulips, lilacs, apple blossoms–and books!

Of course the Inkspers want to celebrate this garden of book so that you, our dear reader friends, can pick your own bouquet of bloomin’ good reads. Join us every day in the next week and get ready to fill your “to be read” pile.

Everything’s Coming Up Novellas

Perhaps it’s because I just finished writing a novella for an upcoming collection (details to follow later), but I couldn’t help notice a number of favorite authors who have novellas coming out this spring. Some dovetail on an author’s popular series, like a mini sequel, while others introduce a new series.

Novella collections, too, have taken off in the publishing world in the last few years. This is a perfect pick for the spring when your reading time might be shorter than in the long winter months.

Here are a few novellas to consider adding to your list.

the husband manuever

If you read my friend Karen Witemeyer’s book, A Worthy Pursuit, you won’t want to miss this little jewel.

1890s Texas. Marietta Hawkins has been in love with ranch foreman Daniel Barrett since she came home from school three years ago. Unfortunately, her father’s rule about hands not fraternizing with his daughter has kept him out of reach. She believed patience would prove a virtue in winning him over–until now. He is leaving. Starting up his own spread. To have any hope of maneuvering him into a proposal, she has to act fast or lose him forever.

Available for pre-order here.

Runaway Bride

I am never disappointed by anything Mary Connealy writes and this bloomin’ good read is a great addition to Mary’s Kincaid Brides and Trouble in Texas series.

Big John Conroy is a Texas Ranger asked by a friend to assist Carrie. He catches up to Carrie and her brother Isaac and races away from a dangerous man who will stop at nothing to make the beautiful young woman his wife. Soon Big John’s feelings for Carrie turn to more than simply protective, and Carrie finally feels that she’s in the presence of a man she can respect–something she’s never known.

Available for pre-order here.

Cowboy Brides

Cowboys anyone? Who can resist a man in chaps? This novella collection of nine historical romances promises a lot of action and love.

Ride onto the open range alongside cowboys and cowgirls who embrace the adventures of living in the Old West from Kansas to New Mexico, Colorado to Texas. Whether rounding up cattle or mustangs, training horses, fending off outlaws, weathering storms, competing in rodeos, or surviving drought these cowboys work hard each day. But when hardheaded men have their weaknesses exposed by well-meaning women will they stampede away or will a lasting love develop?

Available in paperback with flaps, Kindle, and Nook.

Small town brides

In case the print is too small at the top of the cover, it reads, “9 Romances Develop Under the Watchful Eyes of Neighbors.” Is your mind already spinning over the possibilities?

Join the fun and feel the romance in various historical communities from Massachusetts to Florida, Missouri to Texas. Meet ladies who take firm stands for their work in mills, orphanages, churches, schools, hospitals, and the like as they dance through courtship with their beaus. Can the nine couples develop lasting loves under the watchful eyes of their neighbors?

This book releases May  1, 2016. You can pre-order it here.

I hope I’ve planted some spring reading seeds and that you’ll be holding your bloomin’ good reads in your hands in no time.

So, what do you think of novellas? Why do you think their popularity is gaining? Have you ready any collections lately that you’d recommend?


Fall Into New Releases

Fall: time for chili, football, and pumpkin everything. With fall also comes shorter days, cooler temperatures, and new book releases.

New book releases?

Yes, new book releases. And who better to show you what’s hot during the cooling fall days than your friends right here at inkspirationalmessages.com!

The next two weeks we are going to share with you some newly released, soon to be released, and new to you released reads that will keep you company as the leaves fall and the nights turn colder.


My choice is set to release on October 6th,  I can’t wait for Mary Connealy’s third book in her wildly popular Wild At Heart series, Fire & Ice.

Fire & IceBack cover: Bailey Wilde is one of the best new ranchers in the West. She’s been living disguised as a man for a while, but when Gage Coulter comes to drive her off her homestead, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with a woman–a very tough, very intriguing woman at that.
Gage is an honest man, but he didn’t make his fortune being weak. He won’t break the law, but he’ll push as hard as he can within it. Five thousand acres of his best range land is lost to him because Bailey’s homestead is located right across the only suitable entrance to a canyon full of lush grass. Gage has to regain access to his land–and he’s got to go through Bailey to do it. 
Spending a winter alone has a way of making a person crave some human contact. In a moment of weakness, Bailey agrees to a wild plan Gage concocts. Can these two independent, life-toughened homesteaders loosen up enough to earn each other’s respect–and maybe find love in the process?



Eclectic Mix

My title says it all on my summer reading!

My first choice is by author Craig Johnson, whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting! If you are not familiar with Craig Johnson, he authors the Walt Longmire mysteries that the A&E television series is based on.


Book blog 1Working a day job and my own writing contracts leave me with little time for reading, I’m woefully behind on Olivia Newport’s Hidden Falls serial. I started reading this series because I was curious about reading a book in installments. So far, I haven’t been disappointed and I find the short vignettes fun to read.




The last book on my summer reading list is by four authors, Margaret Book blog 2Brownley, Deborah Clopton, Mary Coneally, and Robin Lee Hatcher. I’d intended to start reading this book in June, you know in honor of the whole June bride idea sadly that didn’t happen. But I vow (pun intended!) to read this book by the end of September.


Fine Toothed Comb and Pen In Hand

While we’ve been gone, I’ve been working with another member of our group to use a fine toothed comb on one of my manuscripts to get it ready to send out to agents. I’m not going to be able to make any of the big conferences this year due to my husband’s business and my middle son getting married, so that means I’m forced to concentrate on getting my work in front of professional eyes through the old fashion methods: send out queries. Oh, those dreaded queries!

More fun though, is sending two of my finished manuscripts out to contests, hoping that will also catch the attention of an agent, publisher, or both. If nothing else it will give me feedback and help me to see if my story beginnings will attract the attention I’m hoping to generate.

Writer's RetreatThe most fun thing I have done, though, was to go on a writing retreat with Mary Connealy and Erica Vetsch to an amazing place up in Linn Grove, Iowa. The house was sprawling, beautiful, and set out among the empty fields away from any distraction (save some sheep and bald eagles). The three of us brainstormed the storyline, characters, or plot points in our stories. We also wrote, wrote, chatted a bit, and wrote some more. We even got to soak in a jetted tub (not together!), talk about roughing it! It was an amazing experience and when we were done I had almost ten thousand words written between the two manuscripts I’m currently working on.

The one thing I’ve come to realize lately is that I’m working more on small town contemporary stories instead of the fantasy I’d been concentration on before. However, I do have a taste of magic in my new adult contemporary, so I haven’t given up my fantasy roots altogether. They say write what you know, and I know fantasy, but I really know small town life and all the complications that come with it.

Maybe I’ve found a new calling and I’m excited to see where this is going to lead me.


CatMOckingbirdI am a librarian. Yes, I see book covers on a daily basis, and yes, a great book cover STILL has the power to draw my eye. I’m a sucker for a great cover – contemporary, historical, fantasy – you name it, I am drawn to that cover.

I did a little thinking, though, and found some of my favorite covers. They’re not new, up-and-coming titles, nor are they vintage covers – they’re just covers that will STILL draw me in and make me read them, even if I’ve already read them!

And yes, I think Book Covers have distinct personalities.

Almost AlwaysComeHome

I remember the first time I saw Cynthia Ruchti’s debut contemporary novel, They Almost Always Come Home. The cover entranced me. Cynthia, in a mentor meeting at ACFW, entranced me. Now, some of you know that I’m not usually drawn to reading material that won’t make me laugh, or at least swoon. But I was drawn. And I read it. And I was totally, fantastically, humbly, AMAZED at the story journey that that little boat took me on. Sometimes we need to let the cover draw us in!


Occasionally, it’s the dress that gets me. I read my first Deanne Gist novel because the dresses were just SO PRETTY! What was great, however, was the girl inside that dress!


I would have read Laura Frantz if it had a plain brown wrapper, but you know what, her books do NOT have a plain brown wrapper – instead, her heroines are bedecked in glorious silks and an expression that is JUST LIKE you would expect when you get to know the heroine.


And then there are the “fellas.” A few of my favorite authors, for certain series, have opted to put the HERO on the cover, as opposed to the HEROINE. I can certainly live with that . . . Kaye Dacus, in her “Brides of Bonneterre” series, just gave us PART of the hero . . . and that was enough. OutOfControlMary Coneally, in her “Kinkaid Brides” series, gave us three distinct personalities for her three distinct heroes. Interesting that both series titles have the word “brides,” and they feature the GROOMS! I love it.


A few other series that caught my eye, and one that I’ve seriously already read twice, is Janice Thompson’s “Weddings By Bella” series (which now has a sub-series started!), and Susan May Happily Ever AfterWarren’s “Deep Haven” series. The colors, the art, the playful quality of both series’ covers make me want to hang them on the wall so I can look at them all the time!

So yeah. Talk about a topic that a librarian can sink her teeth into? It’s book covers.

I’m totally . . . flabbergasted

Covers – Can’t wait!

I loooove new books. (I suspect I’m among friends with similar feelings here.)  🙂   I’ve included three books that are set for release this month – all with covers that intrigue me (along with great story lines)

Log Cabin Christmas1A Log Cabin Christmas is a collection of stories from some amazing writers, including fellow Minnesotan Erica Vetsch. I love this cover for several reasons. First, I want to stay in that log cabin! Wouldn’t it make a great hideaway to read or write? Second, I love the mountains. Maybe I’ve spent my life in the suburbs of Minneapolis, but I’m a mountain girl at heart.

I love the stories within this collection: Experience Christmas through the eyes of adventuresome settlers who relied on log cabins built from trees on their own land to see them through the cruel forces of winter. Discover how rough-hewed shelters become a home in which faith, hope, and love can flourish. Marvel in the blessings of Christmas celebrations without the trappings of modern commercialism where the true meaning of the day shines through.

Any cover with nature (especially those mountains!) quickly gets my attention.Alaska Brides cover1 I’ve yet to visit Alaska (it’s high on my bucket list) so I hope reading the Alaska Brides Collection will give me an idea of life in that vast state. These stories are written by some of my favorite authors including Mary Connealy and Tracie Peterson. I’m expecting this to be another great read.

Experience five Alaska adventures through the lives of determined women who overcome the many challenges to build their lives in the wilderness. From the gold rush, through a diphtheria epidemic, to the building of the Alcan Highway, readers will enjoy the stubborn fight each woman displays as love comes into her life. Will the women also give up fighting God and let Him lead them through America’s last frontier?

The Prayer Box1Yet another September release, The Prayer Box, is by Lisa Wingate. What drew me to this cover was, first of all, the title. I have a prayer box myself, so the simple cover of a young woman surrounded by paper prayers caught my eye. And I love the story line.

When Iola Anne Poole, an old-timer on Hatteras Island, passes away in her bed at ninety-one, the struggling young mother in her rental cottage, Tandi Jo Reese, finds herself charged with the task of cleaning out Iola’s rambling Victorian house. Running from a messy, dangerous past, Tandi never expects to find more than a temporary hiding place within Iola’s walls, but everything changes with the discovery of eighty-one carefully decorated prayer boxes, one for each year, spanning from Iola’s youth to her last days. Hidden in the boxes is the story of a lifetime, written on random bits of paper–the hopes and wishes, fears and thoughts of an unassuming but complex woman passing through the seasons of an extraordinary, unsung life filled with journeys of faith, observations on love, and one final lesson that could change everything for Tandi.

What kind of covers catch your eye?

Romantic Comedy – with Cowboys

Mary ConnealyMary Connealy is such a fun gal in person, it’s no surprise she writes fun books – “romantic comedy…with cowboys.” If you’re looking for a good read that includes suspense, romance, good guys and bad, as well as a good laugh (or two), try The Kincaid Brides series. Here’s the back cover copy for the first of these three books:

The Kincaid Brides: Out of Control
Julia Gilliland has always been interested in the natural world around her. SheOutofControl-Mary C particularly enjoys her outings to the cavern near her father’s homestead, where she explores for fossils and formations, and plans to write a book about her discoveries. The cave seems plenty safe–until the day a mysterious intruder steals the rope she uses to find her way out.
Rafe Kincaid has spent years keeping his family’s cattle ranch going, all without help from his two younger brothers, who fled the ranch–and Rafe’s controlling ways–as soon as they were able. He’s haunted by one terrible day at the cave on a far-flung corner of the Kincaid property, a day that changed his life forever. Ready to put the past behind him, he plans to visit the cave one final time. He sure doesn’t expect to find a young woman trapped in one of the tunnels–or to be forced to kiss her!
Rafe is more intrigued by Julia than any woman he’s ever known, but how can he overlook her fascination with the cave he despises? And when his developing relationship with Julia threatens his chance at reconciliation with his brothers, will he be forced to choose between the family bonds that could restore his trust and the love that could heal his heart?

This story is followed by In Too Deep and Over the Edge. Mary’s characters are intelligent, quirky, and determined. Even as events unfold and the tension rises, Mary throws in surprises that make her readers smile.

Mary’s brand new series, the Trouble in Texas, launched in March 2013 and includes a near-drowning, revenge, mail-order brides, an avalanche, and plenty of bad cooking. Through it all, Mary’s cowboys set their hearts on winning the girl, regardless of the cost. Amidst all the ruckus, there’s plenty of humor to keep us laughing. It’s a wild ride with Mary Connealy!


Rodeo RegretsShannon is generously giving away two copies of Rodeo Regrets so don’t forget to leave a comment so you can be entered. Here’s the blurb:


Natalie once dreamed of finding true love. Then Lane Gray broke her heart. After running wild to fill the emptiness inside her, she heads back to her hometown to heal. But when she sees the cowboy she once loved so much, she finds him hard to resist.
Lane Gray is a changed man. The handsome cowboy wants Natalie’s forgiveness-and more. Natalie has made plenty of mistakes in her life, but so has Lane. Could falling for each other again be the worst one yet? Or the path to redemption?


Over the Edge with Mary Connealy

Today we’re taking a trip over the edge with writer Mary Connealy. Her newest book, and third in the Kincaid Brides series, is a trip into the mad world of Seth Kincaid. If you’ve read the first two books, Out of Control and In Too Deep, you know you’re in for a treat with her latest installment, Over the Edge.

Book blurb: Seth Kincaid remembers almost everything…except getting married!
Seth Kincaid survived a fire in a cave, but he hasn’t been the same since. Then he fought in the Civil War and returned to Colorado crazier than ever.
Somewhere along the line, it appears Seth got married. Oh, he has a lot of excuses, but his wife isn’t too happy to find out Seth doesn’t remember her. Callie isn’t a long-suffering woman. When Seth disappeared, she searched, prayed, and worried. Now she’s come out west to wrangle her long-lost husband.
Seth is willing to make amends. Callie is more interested in shooting him. Can they rekindle their love before one of them goes over the edge?

Mary, who/what spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?

You know, I just love it. I love everything about writing. I love the original creation. I love revisions. I love launching a book and doing interviews like this one. My stories come from all over. I think writer’s play a ‘what if’ game with everything. This book, Over the Edge comes from a seed planted nearly 35 years ago when I went to Carlsbad Cavern. This was long before I was writing, but I walked through that cavern and it captured my imagination like few places have ever. I could just BE the first explorer who was down there. I could feel the terror, the darkness, the danger and the staggering beauty that would lure you on, to look deeper. I saw floors that looked like they’d broken. How could anyone know they were walking on stone as thin as an eggshell? I’ve had this story in mind to do for a long time, to try and capture the tug between the lure and the terror. Out of Control ended up being so fun to write. I hope everyone enjoys reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Which character did you connect to the most? No character in any of the three Kincaid Brides series was more fun than Callie, the heroine of Over the Edge. I guess Callie is what I’d call my ‘wheelhouse’. The other heroines are great characters but I just really love those tough Texas cowgirls, those feisty lady ranchers. It’s just a sweet spot for me when I’m writing them and I had a lot of fun making her so tough everyone took a step back and learned some respect when she came onto the scene.

Which character was the most difficult to write? Well, I’ve tried to challenge myself. I’ve tried to not just have all my heroines be feisty lady ranchers and all my heroes by tough, slow talking ranchers. But those are so fun. I tend to always love the characters in the books I’m working on now. So it’s not a fair test when I say THIS hero and THIS heroine is the favorite or the hardest, but writing Seth Kincaid was a challenge. He’s crazy you know….I had to get that right and it wasn’t easy. I remember one editorial comment which was so exactly right, that said, “Let’s stop referring to Seth as a madman after about Chapter Six.” I’m laughing as I think of it. I had so much fun making him be vulnerable and tough and a little bit loco. But he had to straighten up eventually. And he did. I ended up loving him too, even hard to write as he was.

What was your favorite scene to write in Over the Edge? I try to EXPLODE a book. Start with really compelling action and I loved the beginning of Over the Edge. But my favorite paragraph is right after the big, bad gunfight is over, Callie’s badly hurt, and too late to help, here comes Seth. Callie has come west searching for her runaway husband, scared to death he’s dead and mad enough to kill him if he isn’t. She’s wounded, bleeding, furious, killing mad and heavily armed.

This is the beginning of Chapter Two:

Seth saw the stagecoach driver lying halfway in the bushes on the side of the trail. He’d ridden right past him. Seth wheeled around to go help.

A bullet whizzed out the window of the stage and missed him by little more than a foot. Seth drew his six-gun.

“Seth Kincaid you get back here and let me shoot you, you low-down skunk.”

A woman.

A woman who knew his name.

A woman who knew his name and wanted to kill him.

He’d never had much luck with women.

You will be on the edge of your seat to see how she can redeem a varmint such as Seth Kincaid while laughing at the situations her characters get into. A lucky person will win a copy of Mary’s Over the Edge by leaving a comment today. The winner will be announced this weekend.

Find Mary here: at Seekerville,  over at Petticoats &Pistols, or her website. Mary is also on facebook and twitter.

Hankering for a Hunkilicious Read?

“She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain. –Louisa May Alcott, Work: A Story of Experience, 1892


I guess I’m with Miss Alcott’s character Christie then. I, like most of the Inkspers, am too fond of books, and with all of the great books releasing this fall, I fear my brain turns just looking at their gorgeous covers. We want to help you all navigate those marvelous choices and help you decide which you want to add to your fall’s TBR piles.


Now, for the hunks!


Last week, we had our county fair. We have a large fair with a lot going on all the time, no matter how hot it gets. As a 4-H leader, a communications superintendent, and a mother of two 4-H’ers, I spent a lot of time there. I was so proud of my girls and their hard work in 4-H. My youngest daughter has three projects advancing to the Iowa State Fair, and my oldest was awarded the Outstanding Senior 4-H Member for our county, along with a scholarship.

So, while I was at the fair I saw a lot of cowboy boots. This is a new trend in Iowa. For the most part, only those who raised horses wore cowboy boots. Everyone else tended toward work boots if they had livestock and flip flops if they didn’t.  I guess it got me in a cowboy mood, because when I perused the upcoming books for the fall, the folling selections caught my eye. (Okay, it might have had something to to with the covers.)


Saddle up your Kindles and Nooks and get ready for a rip roaring, rootin tootin good time with these fall reads. There appears to be a trend to have men on covers–especially cowboys. These hunkilicious reads seem like the perfect way to keep warm this fall when the nights start growing a bit chilly. Here are a few I already have my eye on.


Betrayal, book 2 in the Where the Heart Lives Series, by Robin Lee Hatcher


It’s the turn of the twentieth century and drifter Hugh Brennan is a man well acquainted with betrayal. Hugh finds himself drawn to the attractive widow, Julia, yet when he looks into her eyes, he recognizes the same hurt that haunts him. Julia Grace has little reason to trust men, but she’s going to have to trust someone if she’s to keep her ranch from the clutches of her dead husband’s half-brother. Is it possible God had a hand in bringing Hugh to her door? The latest historical romance from award-winning author Robin Lee Hatcher and the second book in the Where the Heart Lives series, Betrayal will take you to the high desert of western Wyoming, through the crags of the Rocky Mountains, and into the hearts of two seekers learning to trust God’s love no matter the circumstances.


Over the Edge, book 3 in the Kincaid Brides Series, by Mary Connealy


Seth Kincaid survived a fire in a cave, but he’s never been the same. He was always a reckless youth, but now he’s gone over the edge. He ran off to the Civil War and came back crazier than ever.

After the war, nearly dead from his injuries, it appears Seth got married. Oh, he’s got a lot of excuses, but his wife isn’t happy to find out Seth doesn’t remember her. Callie has searched, prayed, and worried. Now she’s come to the Kincaid family’s ranch in Colorado to find her lost husband.


I got a sneak peek of this book and got to read it early. Boy howdy! It was great. You’ll be sorry if you miss this one, folks. I reckon you should just move it right to the top of your TBR pile.



A Texan’s Choice, book 3 in the Heart of a Hero Series, by Shelly Gray


Texas, 1874. Long ago, Scout Proffitt gave up on ever being a man of honor like his Civil War hero brother Clayton. But when Scout steps foot on the rundown remnants of the Circle C ranch, he wonders if maybe-just maybe-the Lord has something different intended for him.

Rosemarie has lived most of her life doubting her worth and shouldering the blame for her brother’s death. But when a stranger rides onto her ranch, claiming he owns it, she suddenly is given a choice: either keep looking at the dark side of life . . . or dare to dream.



So lasso yourself up a mess of books this fall and make sure these books with their hunkilicious covers are packed in your saddlebags.