Friday, May 30, 2014

Giveaway with Jason McIntire!

Today, we are privileged to have a giveaway! 

Special thanks to Jason McIntire of Elisha Press for being with us and giving away a copy of The Sparrow Found a House.

The Sparrow Found a House

Fifteen-year-old Jessie Rivera is living every teenager’s nightmare. Her widowed mom has married a man who wears his heavy Christian values like his sergeant’s stripes – on both sleeves.
Glenn Sparrow is persistent, immovable, and not afraid to be firm. Worse than that, he’s loving, kind – even fun – and he has Chris, Moe, and Katie completely won over.
But Jessie is determined that she won’t be won over, or give up her “freedom” without a fight. She knows what she wants, and it isn’t what they’ve got.
Or is it?
Discover the answer when you read The Sparrow Found A House, a fast-paced, often humorous look into the lives of the four Rivera siblings, their parents, and their friends. As outward changes transform the family, the kids come face-to-face with the changes needed in their own individual hearts and lives.
Through it all, the reader is not only entertained, but enriched by biblical truths expressed in the lives of believable characters.
This is a realistic, contemporary story intended for young adults and up, but entirely suitable for all ages. It is a particularly good choice for home-educated readers, as homeschooling plays a major role in the story.

“…this book reminded me of the transforming power of the love of God.”

Enter giveaway now! And thank you, Jason, for being here today. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Should Christian Novels Have Romance?

Greetings all, John J. Horn here.

Several years ago I wrote an article called “Romance in Literature” in which I discussed the advisability of including romance in Christian fiction. Since that time I’ve written three novels, all of which contain romance, and thought quite a bit more about the subject.

With that in mind I’ve reworked and added to my original article, and hence the following is my current perspective on this controversial subject.

Romance in Christian Fiction

“Love is like a red, red rose,” said Robert Burns.

 Perhaps, but should we write about it? Romance plays a leading role in fiction past and present, probably because it plays such a significant role in life. One of the most important decisions you will ever make is choosing your spouse. Your husband/wife impacts you, your success and happiness in life, your children, and your heritage.

“But love is blind, and lovers cannot see the pretty follies that themselves commit.” That fact helped earn Shakespeare over four centuries of fame. Should it have?

Is Fictional Romance Biblical?

If it isn't biblical to write about romance you should rip out the books of Ruth, Esther, and the Song of Solomon. While you're ripping, don't forget to neutralize pages in Genesis, 2 Samuel, Proverbs, and most if not all of the other books of the Bible. If romance isn't biblical, then the Bible isn't biblical.

But maybe I’m going too fast. After all, these passages are historical, not fictional. Right?

Actually, not entirely. Think of the Song of Solomon, which is in many ways allegorical, or Proverbs 7, where a story of ungodly romance is used to warn young men from dangerous relationships. Written romance, including fictional romance, is biblical.

Is Fictional Romance Wise?

When London Burned by G.A. Henty
Love is often compared to fire, and for good reason. Fire warms our bodies, cooks our food, and comforts our souls, but it can also consume our flesh and turn us into the dust from which we came. Romance is no different.

Romance gone wrong (most of the books on the shelves today) encourages lust and rank immorality. Even “modest” romance can augment discontent or build unrealistic expectations.

As humans, love stirs the depths of our souls. We feel for a character who is willing to remove any obstacles between him and his beloved. Sometimes, though, those obstacles are necessary, and shouldn't be removed.

(Interesting side note: Romance is big business. The Romance genre brought in an estimated $1.35 billion in 2013. You can find more stats at Romance Writers of America.)

Virtuous Romance

So, what is "good" romance?

Virtuous romance involves a man and a woman who are prepared to follow God's law in their relationship both before and after the marriage covenant. The more burning buildings, pillaging armies, and ruthless villains between them the better, as long as these obstacles are weaved properly into the plot.

Romance or . . . Romance?

There is a difference between a Romance novel and a novel which includes romance. Romance novels are a genre of their own which I'll discuss again in a moment. Elements of romance in a book are generally weaved into a larger story, such as David Copperfield's life or Beric the Briton's fight for freedom. They add power, punch, and often comedy. Being a Roman slave, like Malchus in The Young Carthaginian, is a problem. Being a Roman slave and desiring to protect your beloved from a heartless Roman noble is an even bigger problem.

Malchus and Clotilde escape Rome
"You knew that I loved you, and for every time you have thought of me, be it ever so often, I have thought of you a score. You knew that I loved you and intended to ask your hand from your father." ~ Malchus in The Young Carthaginian

Malchus raises another point in his brief declaration of love above that is completely foreign to most novels today. A girl's father is her authority, and, according to Scripture, he is the point of access to her heart. Of course, there are times when this is not possible, such as when the girl is orphaned, but the principle remains. A young man trying to skirt a father's authority is not being virtuous.

The Romance Genre

In the Romance genre, the main plot of the book is the romance, and the setting and action are generally accessories. I don't see a principial problem with this, so long as the romance follows biblical guidelines. Be careful, though, that you don't fill your mind with unrealistic ideas about who your spouse should be. Mr. Darcy is much too busy answering fanmail to think about marrying you.


I think that romance is biblical, and I think that there is a definite place for it in literature. Just remember that there can be too much of a good thing. Be careful how much time you spend in its coiled web, and don't get unrealistic notions of perfection. Filter what you read, and you'll filter how you act. Now, I'll conclude with a favorite quote from R. M. Ballantyne's The Island Queen.

"It is of no use mincing the matter; Dr. John Marsh, after being regarded by his friends at home as hopelessly unimpressible--in short, an absolute woman-hater--had found his fate on a desolate isle of the Southern seas, he had fallen--nay, let us be just--had jumped over head and ears in love with Pauline Rigonda! Dr. Marsh was no sentimental die-away noodle who, half-ashamed, half-proud of his condition, displays it to the semi-contemptuous world. No; after disbelieving for many years in the power of woman to subdue him, he suddenly and manfully gave in--sprang up high into the air, spiritually, and so to speak, turning a sharp somersault, went headlong down deep into the flood, without the slightest intention of ever again returning to the surface."
 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

Monday, May 26, 2014

Writing Words: What do those acronyms mean?

As a beginning writer (or one who doesn't want to ask many questions) it can be very confusing when you first start talking to other writers. They throw around these acronyms and it can be very confusing. Here is a helpful guide to a few of them.

MS ~ Manuscript

WIP ~ Work in Progress

POV ~ Point of View

MC ~ Main Character

MMC ~ Main Male Character

MFC ~ Main Female Character

Are there writing terms or acronyms that you are confused by or unsure of the meaning? Feel free to email me your questions at

Sarah Holman is a not so typical mid-twenties girl: A homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings, and author of four published books and counting. If there is anything adventuresome about her life, it is because she serves a God with a destiny bigger than anything she could have imagined.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Clichés...With a Twist!

Yes, this is normally John J. Horn's week, but he has been very busy with school and work. So he and I are switching weeks. Look for him next Wednesday!

Now, I write historical-fiction. Therefore, to make my settings feel historical, I avoid 21st century clichés like the plague. Or something like that.

One reviewer on my upcoming release said this:

"From the Dark to the Dawn by Alicia A. Willis is an intriguing novel that follows a well-used premise. It avoids clichés and delivers crisp life-like characters. And it stands as a sparkling fresh take on Roman history."

I was very relieved! Because there is nothing more maddening to me than reading a historical-fiction novel and finding it full of modern phrases and clichés. "Hey, dude, your sword fighting is not up to par." Ugggg!

But... There may be an appropriate form of clichés. (Now, hear me out!)

We all like swashbuckling action. Errol Flynn is our man when it comes to this. It doesn't matter that his sword fights always come out the same. It doesn't matter that he always get the sparkling-eyed, smiling Olivia de Havilland. We like the fact that his roles are always clichéd. Or, in other words, predictable.

In this short comedy film, Studio C shows the typical sword fight and how hilariously similar they all are. But, in the end, we all love them!

Minor character killed-no harm, no foul. Foot stomp. Spin and recompose. Classic move known as the I-don't-even-have-to-look-at-you. Spin is tactical suicide but it is worth it because of how cool it makes you look. Pierre throws all three men back with seeming ease despite the objections from the laws of physics.

Oh, yeah!

So, do you use a clichéd plot when it comes to your swashbuckling action or not? It's up to you. Just remember, there are some well-used premises that have stood the test of time - and readers love them.

I think I'll go write a little on Rising to the Challenge (The Comrades of Honor Series #3). Sir Kenneth Dale might just be in for another clanging, steel-on-steel, piece of riveting action!

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, May 19, 2014

Part 2: Realism vs. Rebellion—How Should We Apply it?

Good morning from the green and pleasant land! It's Caitlin Hedgcock here, with the first piece of writing I've done in my new room. :) We have just moved house and now I have a view of the trees in the back garden as I type.

A while ago, I spoke about flawed characters and the way popular literature and films are always encouraging us to overlook the vices of the heroes based on the fact that they're “only human.” After all, we know what it's like to have a particular weakness for a particular sin. Shouldn't we have heroes like this too? Doesn't this make them real? Doesn't this make them relatable?

Realism vs. Rebellion—How Should We Apply it?

I absolutely love dissecting stories, their plotlines, and their characters, and predicting what should happen in sequels. And here's a shocker—more than once I've run into the realization that popular stories aren't trying to create “human” heroes. They're trying to create “superhuman” heroes. Now I don't mean ones who can smell through walls or do triple back flips (i.e. not necessarily superheroes), but rather characters who do things they shouldn't, and get outcomes that are the result of exactly the opposite behaviour.

Think about it. Do you get away with lying about watering the yard? You may think you have successfully gotten out of a chore, until the flowers start to wilt and you are found out.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Your Target Audience

Interrupting this post to say I'm out of town. So pardon any delays in publishing comments. Please comment anyway! :)

Well, yes, in a way. You gotta target people.

But we won't use stones. Not the best marketing strategy in the world. Even if it tempts you.

Moving on.

Who is your target audience? 

Too often, I see authors trying to sell their books to everybody. Maybe they don't think they are, but that is how it comes across. And it doesn't work.

One of the hard facts of being an author is that not everybody is going to like your book. More particularly, not everyone reads your genre. So you have to determine your target audience (preferably before you start marketing) and then start targeting.

Here are the basic questions to ask yourself:

  • Who will enjoy it? (Not everybody.)
  • What age range is it for?
  • What kinds of people will read it?
  • Are there people who will read it even if it not their typical genre?

Now, I am more-or-less blessed. Historical-fiction is a popular genre and the age range is from 13+ through adult. People who read fantasy, thrillers, or romance might pick up a historical-fiction because so many of the elements are similar. And homeschoolers and Christian schools are always glad to incorporate historical books into their curriculum. 

So I have a fairly big target audience. But I still have to market and target them. I know they like historical-fiction, but do they know that they will like my particular books? Once you know your target audience, you have to target their particular interests.

Here are a few basics:
  • Customize your elevator pitch per the different circles inside your target audience. (For instance, I talk about the historical-accuracy and learning tools when dealing with homeschoolers. I talk about the action with the guys. Girls know about the romance. And I make sure to let Christians know about the Biblical worldview.)
  • Find the people who will want to know about your book. You can't wait around for them to find you. Your target audience has certain circles they hang out in. Discover them. Do you write romance? Find a girl's blog and offer to do a guest post. Do you write children's books? Get involved with your local library, homeschool groups, or Christian school.
  • Can you identify with your readers? People tend to like certain kinds of books because of their interests. And their interests are always personal. Maybe you meet someone who went through a devastating loss. Will your book help them with that? A mother is complaining about the lack of good children's books. Does your book fit the criteria of what she is looking for?
  • Maybe you mentioned Starbucks or Chick-fil-A in your book. See about doing a book signing or promotional there. If nothing else, readers who like a certain kind of food or a certain place will be drawn to your book.
So find out your target audience and start targeting! 

Questions or Comments?

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, May 7, 2014

Defining Writers

I spoke about defining writers in my workshop at the CAPE 2013 Homeschool Convention. I thought I would share that section here today!


Which writer are you?

The Hobbyist
You write for fun or for a pastime. It satisfies something in you and gives you new perspectives on life. You may bind something someday - who knows? The idea of becoming a published author is rather intimidating or unimportant at this point. After all, you just write for you

The Casual
You have one or two books, either published or intended to be published. You may market or you may not. You may just be content to "see where it goes". God has only given one or two stories - and you're content with that. You love to write, but hitting it big or becoming famous isn't necessarily that important.

The Dedicated/Professional
You feel called to full-time writing and publishing. Marketing is big to you because you believe the world needs to hear about the story God has given you. You have several books and have plans for many more! Becoming famous would be okay if you, but doesn't necessarily need to happen for you to be happy. You just want to write as many books as possible and be as professional as you can be.

Why is it important to know what kind of a writer you are? Well, because then you know what kind of an author you are or will be. Knowing that sets the foundation for your marketing, your target audience, and more. 

So which writer are you?

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, May 5, 2014

Writing Words: Who is the Good Guy?

You don't have to be plugged into the writing to hear writers bemoaning issues with their antagonists or protagonists. Was I the only one that found those two confusing? Do I see one timid hand in the back? Well then, this post is for you. And the good news is, it won't take long.

Are you pro-life, pro homeschool, pro-writer? Great! So is your pro-tagonists. That is right the good guy is the protagonist. 

In similar fashion, you are against or anti your antagonist.

Was that not to simple?  Join me next Monday for more on Writing Words.

Sarah Holman is a not so typical mid-twenties girl: A homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings, and author of four published books and counting. If there is anything adventuresome about her life, it is because she serves a God with a destiny bigger than anything she could have imagined.