Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Evaluating Our Content

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Additionally, while I use personal standards or my books as examples, I am not holding myself up as the ultimate example. The Lord's leading, Scripture, and your own conscience must be your guide. However, I hope that the things that the Lord has shown me will be helpful to you too!

Today I want to talk about a topic that is a little more controversial. I have a few points to address on evaluating our content.

If you disagree with any of my points, all I ask is that you carefully evaluate your stance in the light of Scripture. I understand that there are many viewpoints and sometimes it is difficult to come to a perfect balance. 

We have a huge responsibility as authors. If nothing else, join me in trying to be careful! We've had similar topics here on Word Painters, and I believe everyone understands the importance of following the Lord's promptings and Scriptural standards in our writing. Our goal as Christian authors is to reclaim literature for Christ, not succumb to the world's standards of what is acceptable.

So let's get started!


This has been covered by John J. Horn and Jason McIntire in previous posts. (Follow names for the two viewpoints.) I won't go into much detail, but here are a few things I want to mention.

  • Is our focus on violence? 

Violence happens, especially when you write swashbuckling action and persecution scenes like I do. But how do we handle it? With a focus on gore, blood, death, and destruction? Or with the focus on the action itself?

Personally, I endeavor to focus on tactic and the emotions of a character during intense battle scenes. When blood must be included for realism, I endeavor to keep it as lightly-depicted as historically possible. It is indeed possible to write a well-crafted, heart-pulsating action scene by telling, not showing. Instead of describing gore to every detail, you can simply state the battlefield was littered with carnage. You don't have to describe a pulsating wound or the dead to every detail. It is enough for a reader to know it is there.

As for persecution scenes, it is hard to come to a balance of how much violence is too much. I try to let the Lord lead. Mostly, I try to focus on the faith and the strength the Lord gives during such times. 

It all boils down to focus. Is it gore? Or is it courage, honor, and faith in the  midst of the action?

Physical Descriptions

I try to be careful here. As far as I am concerned, there is absolutely no need to describe a man or a woman down to the smallest detail. In fact, much detail beyond that of facial characteristics and general build is not needed. Words paint just as clear of an image as photos do. 

  • Why do we describe what we describe? Evaluate all motives and the intended audience. Even if the audience is adult, keep it as pure as possible.

A gentleman once told me that it is very hard for men to read books where the author overly-describes a woman. What might seem like a basic description to a female reader is something that might cause a male reader to stumble. Or vice versa. 

Remember your brothers and sisters in the faith and keep physical descriptions simple. And pure. 

The same goes for statues. When I was writing From the Dark to the Dawn, the Lord reminded me that there is no need to describe a statue in detail. Just because the Romans or whoever had no shame doesn't mean we as historical authors need be the same way.

I of all people know how tough this topic is. I just wrote a book about Rome. Trying to keep topics like slavery, slave auctions, statues, and bath houses pure was hard. I did a lot of praying! And, yes, the Lord did lead me to change some things and reword certain scenes. 

So just ask the Lord if you are stuck. He'll help you! :)


Not much to say here! Obviously, no cursing! Tell, don't show. 

For historical-authors, we really can't avoid the "by the gods" phrases the Romans/Greeks used all the time. But that is a little different. Do your research. Some phrases were fine then, others weren't. Don't take it for granted that a certain phrase was fine.

Morals versus Jesus

Morals are great. Obviously. In fact, I emphasized a lot of them in The Comrades of Honor Series. But let me remind you that our emphasis as Christian authors is Jesus Christ, not good works or morals. He is what makes the difference in lives. So keep Him in your books, not just the things that make for a "better" society.


I have personally taken the standard of my first kiss being on my wedding day. The same goes for my book characters. 

In the Middle Ages and in other eras, men and women kissed at engagement. (Engagements were super serious; one practically had to get a divorce to break an engagement.) So I went with that in my medieval series. 

If you differ with me on this, try to keep kissing at a minimum. Be discreet, pure, and remember that we are Christian authors. We're different from the world. Even if your characters aren't Christians, still keep your descriptions appropriate for believing readers. Some things really should be left to the imagination or just left in general.

Also, study your history if you are a historical author. For instance, kissing before marriage was basically immoral in Rome.


Those are all the points I am going to cover. 

If nothing else, remember that we have to reclaim our literature for Christ. Don't settle to pleases the masses. You'll never be sorry for having a higher standard. 

A clean, honorable book really shines and stands out. In the long run, the readers who snatch it up will be the ones you want in the first place. You'll know he/she is a Christian who wants to be encouraged in their faith. Not a worldly individual who is settling for a "Christian" book because it is so close to the world's standards that they can't tell them apart. We are called to be different. That includes our writing.

What safeguards have you set up for your writing?

Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog or Facebook to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!

Monday, July 28, 2014

My Top Ten Most Influential Authors in my Life: Part 1

I have a theory, and I pretty sure most of you would agree with it. Here it is: The authors we love most, are the ones that influence our writing the most. So for the next two weeks, I would like to share my favorite authors with you and why I love them. You will be able to see what influences me and what I look for in a good book.

1. Elizabeth Camden: If you had told me two years ago that a modern author would claim the number one spot on my list, I would have laughed. There was no way a modern author could be as good as some of the older authors I loved. Elizabeth Camden brings the people and times she writes about to life. She can take a plot or subject I normally dislike reading and make me love it. For example in her book, Into the Whirlwind, there is a love triangle. Most of the time, I hate stories with a love triangle because I either become convinced the main character is incredibly stupid in not realizing the right guy/girl, or I think the whole thing is very unbelievable. However, in her book she not only made the love triangle understandable, but believable.

2. Grace Livingston Hill: If you haven’t heard of this author, that is okay, you are not alone. She was born the day Lincoln was shot, and died in the 1950’s She wrote over 100 books, all of them with happy endings (which was not the fashion of the time). If you read a number of her books, you will see that she does have patterns she follows making her a bit predictable. However, that predictability only adds to the charm of her stories. She was an unashamed Christian, and her books make that very clear. She is one of my biggest inspirations for becoming a writer.

3. Linda Lee Chaikin: I was tired of the same authors I had been reading for years. One day at the library, I went on a quest to find some good books by new authors. One of the books I stumbled on was her Heart of India series. After reading it, I was hooked on Chaikin’s writing. The best word to describe Chaikin’s books is diverse. She has written books set in India and England. She written books set in Medieval Byzantium and in France during World War Two. I love her diversity, and her well researched books.

4. Karen Witemeyer: When I first started seeing Witemeyer’s name around, I assumed she was just another prairie romance writer who wrote typical romances. One of my best friends finally told me that I had to try her. Yes, her books are romances, but they are much more than that.  She has rich, deep characters and spiritual lessons that always touch my heart.

5. Elisabeth Allen: I found the Allen’s Charity’s Diary series by following a string of links. It took me a while to buy my copies, but I am so glad I did. Her books are about girls I can relate to. They aren’t grand adventures; they are engaging tales of everyday life. Not only are the books wholesome, they are very encouraging and spiritually uplifting.
You can read my reviews of her books: Just Like You, No Matter What, For Life and Eternity, and The Abolitionist.

 As this is starting to get long, join me next week for the next part of this post.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Getting Over "Me-ism".

I speak to a lot of writers. Most of us are all the same. We just want to write our stories and be true to the tales God has given us. 

But we're all troubled by this little thing that sometimes holds us back.

We can be shy about talking about our work. I was for many years. Marketing was hard (still is) and talking about my books made me self-conscious. Why?

I was talking about me. Self-promotion, writing flattering bios about myself, having the confidence that would reel in big publishers.... It was all very intimidating. 

'Cause Christians aren't supposed to brag on themselves.

And it took several talks with my wonderful publishing consultants and marketing agents to make me realize my mistake.

There are two ways of looking at marketing. 

  • Be shy and overly modest.
  • Don't talk about our books 'cause it's about us.
  • Downplay our work.
  • Never promote it.

Did you know that the first option is not actually Biblical? Nor is it more spiritual. Because over-humility actually demonstrates the same sin as pride - thinking too much about ourselves. Downplaying the gift and stories God gave you is certainly not right either. So, while the first option to marketing may seem or feel more spiritual, it really isn't.

  • Embrace the gift God gave you while remembering that it is to Him you owe it.
  • Talk about your work in the light of where you came from and how God has led.
  • Share how you are learning, but still embrace your books as they are (if you did your best). 'Cause no one is perfect.
  • Promote your work because the stories are from God and He wants you to use them to bless people.
  • Remember that it isn't about you. It's about a gift from God, a story He wants you to share, and a plan He has for blessing others...and you!

I think this is the approach God would have us take concerning our work. I know embracing the second approach really helped me. Hopefully it will help you!

What helps you with promotion?

Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog or Facebook to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!

Monday, July 21, 2014

What I Appreciate about Dickens

By Caitlin Hedgcock

My family and I traveled to Kent a few weekends ago and stumbled across the little seaside town of Broadstairs. On picking ourselves up, we found it full of associations with the author Charles Dickens—the hotels in which he wrote parts of David Copperfield and other novels, the place that supposedly inspired the title Bleak House, and the home of the real Betsey Trotwood (called "Dickens House" and pictured below).

"Dickens House." An unforgettably enthusiastic curator talked us through the rooms.

I have been thinking a lot about classical authors, trying to pinpoint the qualities that have made their popularity so long-lived. What made Mr. Dickens such a sensation in his lifetime as well as two hundred years after his birth? What can we learn from him?

Disclaimer: It is not my intention to discuss authors' personal lives or actions here; rather I want to learn from the skills they developed and the enduring principles they used to write effectively.

What I Appreciate About Dickens

    1. The characters 


When you read a Dickens novel, it is hard (virtually impossible) not to picture in vivid Technicolor the false humility of Uriah Heep or the indifferent laziness of Eugene Wrayburn, the wittiness of Jenny Wren or the staunch loyalty of Miss Pross. Dickens based his characters on real people, and it shows.

The real Betsey Trotwood, a fearsome spinster named Miss Strong, believed she had the right to chase away the donkey-boys who tried to drive their animals in front of her cottage . . . and if my memory serves me correctly, she eventually got in trouble with the law for it. As the Dickens House museum curator said, “You couldn't make this stuff up!”

     2. The setting.

Friday, July 18, 2014

What in the World is a Serial?

By Rachel Rossano

Alexandre Dumas (from Wiki Commons)
Charles Dickens (from Wiki Commons)

A serial in the literary world usually refers to anything published in short segments on a regular basis. With origins back to the early days of movable type in the 17th century, the serial form of publishing a novel has a long history. The great masters of the 19th century, Dickens and Dumas, published some of their greatest works in the form, Little Dorrit, Our Mutual Friend, and The Three Musketeers to name a few. Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers is considered responsible for establishing the popularity of the serialize form.

What does this have to do with today? Due to the internet, social media, and blogging, a vast audience awaits and you can interact with them personally. Publishing a serial story is a great way to tap into and snag the interest of those potential readers without spending hundreds of dollars. Serials offer authors great opportunities show off their skills and gather a following.

Back when I first began my public writing life as a blogger (back in the early days of Xanga) I started publishing my own serial novels to build up an audience. Writing a chapter at a time can be a great way to introduce yourself to and interact with readers.

However, there are some draw backs to publishing your own serial novel.

First, despite the fact the novel will be copyrighted to you from the moment you produce it, not everyone respects author’s rights. The novel will be displayed for anyone to steal, borrow, or copy. If you are highly protective of your work, this might not be a comfortable idea. Also, if you intend to sell the novel to a publisher afterwards, you will need to notify the publisher that the novel has been published once already.

Second, writing a chapter a week or even a month can be a daunting task for any author. We all go through seasons when putting two words together comprehensively is a trial. However, the process can be good practice for writing on a schedule. As an alternative an author can write the novel out beforehand and then dole out the chapters one at a time on a schedule. Both tactics work.

Going through the process of writing to a schedule and receiving instant feedback turned out to be very beneficial to me early in my career. Not every writing thrives under scrutiny and expectations. I know of a few that panic when the pressure builds. If you are one of those writers, a more laid back approach or writing the novel or story before publishing it would be the best tactic.

What advantages do you see to publishing a serial story?

Rachel Rossano balances her time between the chaos of raising and homeschooling her three children and the world of drama and high adventure in her head. With her faithful husband and chief consulting editor by her side, she dreams of many more adventures to come. 

She also designs book covers. For examples of her work, visit her design page at or Facebook page at

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

10 Quotes About Writing

Greetings all, John J. Horn here.

Ever need some writerly inspiration? I do.

Here are a few fun and instructive quotes from writers of the past and present. (I don't necessarily endorse the authors.)

“I shall live badly if I do not write, and I shall write badly if I do not live.” Francois Sagan

“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” St. Augustine

“If you wait for inspiration, you’re not a writer, but a waiter.” Anonymous

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” Douglas Adams

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”  Robert Frost

“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” Winston Churchill

“To literary critics a book is assumed to be guilty until it proves itself innocent.” Nelson Algren

“People say that writers write for money. From my own experience that's not true. I write for me. I publish for money.” Greg Curtis

“The hard part is putting one word after another.” Jo Lindsell

“Art stands on the shoulders of craft, which means that to get to the art, you must master the craft. If you want to write, practice writing.” Ann Patchett

Now go write something!


Inspire Christian Writer's Group


John J. Horn is a Christian writer from San Antonio, Texas. Learn more about John and his Men of Grit series and sign up for his newsletter at

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Story Contest!

Anybody up for a story contest?

Who does this falcon belong to? Is he medieval? 

Submit your story (under 7,000 words) to by July 25th for your chance to win publication in my Little Corners newsletter and the ebook of your choice from among my titles!

I'll write a little starting tidbit of my own...

A Squire's Falcon

    Richard cast a swift glance over his shoulder. Just a few more moments. Just-

    "Richard de Beauside, thou lazy buffoon!" 

    Richard whirled around, feeling the clamping fingers of a strong hand burrow into his shoulder. Towering nearly half a head over him, he looked up into the indignant eyes of his master's squire-of-honor, Allard. 

    "I haven't done anything," he muttered, as boldly as he dared. Apparently, his new lord, Sir Wilfred of York, was not keen on his vassals showing Allard anything but the utmost respect.

    "Nay? Then why art thou hither, at the falconry, rather than attending to thy duties?"

    Richard shrugged. "Cleaning Sir Wilfred's armor can't compare with watching the falcons."

    Allard cocked a brow. "I agree. One is thy duty, the other will displease thy lord."

    Richard looked down. Since he had been chosen as Sir Wilfred's secondary squire three days ago, he had made every excuse for avoiding him. Was it fear? He didn't know. Perhaps it was the uncertainty of how life would be in his lord's service that kept him from learning more about his new master and the life he was destined to lead.

    Or maybe it really was the falcons. He was fascinated by the way they glided on the currents of air, of the messages they could carry, of the powerful way they hunted. They were distracting.

    "Well?" Allard's grey eyes seemed to bore holes through him. "Wilt thou return to thy tasks?"

    "Yes, master." Richard tasted acidity in his own sarcasm. And the shame of his own foolishness. What was he thinking? Was he deliberately trying to get himself into trouble?

    Allard didn't say anything for a moment. Richard dared a quick look upwards. Three years older than him and undoubtedly stronger, Allard was more than his match if he chose to belt him one. 

    "Thou aren't truly impudent, Richard," Allard said at last, and Richard saw something like an amused twinkle in his eyes. "Nor art thou very wise. But, we won't discuss it. I'll aid thee in thy tasks, then we may return hither."

    "For what purpose?" Richard's breath quickened. Allard's quiet return was warming to his heart.

    Allard lifted a brow. "Why, to show thee Sir Willard's personal falcons, of course. I happen to know that he is expecting some new eyasses. Perhaps he can be persuaded to give thee one."

    Richard's heart leaped into his throat. "A baby falcon? Truly? But-"

    Allard thumped him hard on the shoulder. "Not if thou don't get to work. Hasten thee, churl."

    Richard swallowed, a grin nearly splitting his countenance in twain. Allard wasn't nearly as formidable as he had thought. And, perhaps, with time, he would discover that Sir Wilfred wasn't either.

What happens next? Complete the story as your entry or submit your own!

Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog or Facebook to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Bit of This and That...

What does this post have to do with writing? Well, I'm sure I can tie writing in somehow. It's mainly an update. :)

First, I'm back. I was gone for a week at Apache Creek Deaf and Youth Ranch, serving as a counselor. (You may have noticed that John Horn and I switched weeks so there would be someone here to post.) To see all the pics and get the whole story, head over to my BLOG. I got some fun photos!

Secondly, pre-ordering opened for From the Dark to the Dawn: A Tale of Ancient Rome!

Here are the details if you want to obtain a copy for yourself or another reader!
  • Historical-Fiction
  • 13+ for persecution
  • $19.99 for signed, first-edition copy (ebook available on the 18th)
  • 450 pages
  • Glossary 

Message, email me, leave a comment, etc. if you want a copy!

You can head over to Goodreads to read the synopsis or add the book to your shelves. And you can watch the trailer HERE

You've seen my endorsements, so here is what every day readers are saying!

"The story is compelling and passionate, while the characters are memorable, making this story resound even for this present age. In Rome's darkest times shone a growing light. It was a light of the coming dawn." 
- Joshua Hoppman, reader.

"You can't go wrong with this gem of a book." - Michael Camp, reader.

"The characters in this narrative are life-like and face real life problems and decisions. They are human, they make mistakes, yet God's grace is always sufficient... This book also paints an accurate picture of early Christianity, and the struggles that early Christians faced. Many principles are applicable to the present day, as even our culture is becoming more and more self-centered and hostile to Christianity. I highly recommend this book." - Samuel Jones, reader.

(Yes, all guys. Don't worry - it is for ladies too! Some how it just happened that my beta readers were guys.)

And... Happy 4th of July!

I am so proud to be an American. Our nation was built on the Bible, on God, on faith. Let us never forget that. At the same time, let us never stop praying for revival. Our country has forgotten her heritage. Let us join together in praying that the hearts of our leaders and the people will be turned to Him.

I felt led to also mention Israel. God's chosen  people are under constant attack. I think specifically of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali, the three teenage boys who were kidnapped and murdered simply because they were Jews. Pray for their families and for the nation of Israel.

And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
-Genesis 12:2-3

How is your writing? How has your week been? Any plans for the 4th?

Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog or Facebook to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!