Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Use Story Cartel To Get Free Book Reviews

Greetings all, John J. Horn here.

Book reviews are author currency. (We don't get to handle much real currency, so we have to settle for something.)

If you're looking for an easy, free way to get your books reviewed, check out

Story Cartel connects authors with readers by allowing authors to give away free ebooks in exchange for reader reviews. There's no out-of-pocket expense for authors — just the opportunity cost of giving your book away for free. The only cost for readers is the time to write a review once the book is completed.

I haven't used Story Cartel to give away my own books, but I have reviewed a couple books as a reader. In fact, I need to go read one right now.

Story Cartel's ebooks can be read on desktops/laptops, iPads, and, with a little finagling, Kindles.

Story Cartel hosts a variety of genres, many of which I don't recommend, but whatever you're writing will probably fit within one of their categories.

Check 'em out!

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

Monday, September 15, 2014

Five Benefits of Meeting Other Writers

At the beginning of this month, I was able to get together with two new friends from the States. Just last week I was in Wales meeting homeschoolers. On Saturday, I saw friends at an airshow. What's the common denominator? All three cases involved me in chatting to other writers.

Now, I don’t know about you, but to me “writing” brings up the image of a person sitting alone in a room. Probably most of us aren’t stereotypically introverted, quiet, and shy, but our craft tends to involve a lot of hard work that is achieved when apart from other people. The hours of research or key-tapping can actually be a break from a part-time job or hectic schedule. Even if this is the case, there is a heap of encouragement to be gained from talking to other writers.

We can

Share the excitement of a new project,

Inspire energy in a slumping climax,

Challenge to set sights higher and tighten the plot,

Empathize about a bout of writer’s block, and

Encourage a weary one to press through to The End.

Maybe you’re disillusioned with the wholewriting thing.Even if a friendly talk to a fellow-writer doesn’t go into details—even if it doesn’t venture beyond a discussion of theory or style or the difficulty of getting published—it can remind you that you’re not alone.

Maybe you’ve just published your third novel, have never been more excited, and are brimming with ideas to use up before your next deadline. Well, perhaps you’ll find yourself able to spark off some of that inspiration onto a fellow writer in the literary doldrums.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 
1 Thess. 5:11

Have you been able to help or be helped by talking to other writers?

Am I wrong about the stereotype and most writers you know are quiet and shy? :)

Caitlin R. Hedgcock is a Christian author who aspires to use storytelling for God’s glory. She lives with her family in England's picturesque county of Hertfordshire. Visit her blog or Facebook page to find out more.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Is Your Villain Too Evil?

Is your villain too evil?

Now, I love books that makes a clear difference between right and wrong. I love the ones that show absolutes. I love it that you don't have to muse over an antagonist and find yourself confused about whether or not his sin was really "that bad".


You can go too far. Just like your protagonists can be too good, your antagonists can be too evil. 

Sometimes, we need a regular bad guy. Not the super-villain. Just the ordinary individual, military leader, or church gossip who has an ax to grind. They are more subtle, more annoying. You generally hate the super-villains...but you get downright frustrated with the typical ones.

For example, think of a Spanish comandante. He may be handsome (especially in that Spanish uniform!). He's probably dashing, a good leader, a compassionate friend, and charmingly masculine. He may know the right things to say to the ladies, donate money to the poor, and host a party to celebrate the courage of one of his sergeants. 

But he may also have devious plans up his sleeve. He may be capable of great cruelty, despite his suave and charming manners. He may accept bribes. Perhaps he is in allegiance with pueblo Indians who wish to overthrow the Americanos

Just remember, bad guys aren't always first. 

So who is your villain?

Mine is currently Sir Darryl of Morningstar Castle. He's charming, rich, handsome, and powerful. But... Well, you'll have to wait until Rising to the Challenge releases in 2015 to find out why he is the villain!

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, September 8, 2014

When you Don’t Meet your Goals

It is discouraging. It is frustrating. It makes you angry at yourself. You made a plan, a very good plan, but it crumbles. I know the feeling, I have been there. This year has been very discouraging when it came to meeting my goals.

I had a wonderful plan for 2014. I was going to publish three books, write at least that many more, and finally start making money off my books. As this year is rapidly coming to an end, I realize that I probably will only publish one book, write maybe two more, and break even on my expenses. Yeah, the goals went out the window.

Like any good writer, I sat down and evaluated why I hadn’t met my goals. I really expected to find that I had just been wasting my time, because, like all good writers, I am my harshest critic.  What I found really surprised me, in a good way. If you examined how you spend your time, you might too.
You see, this year has been a full year for me. My historical fiction book took a lot more time than I thought it would. I spent a lot more time editing and checking facts than I was planning on. It made the book better, but it took a lot of time.

I had a part time job taking care of an elderly lady for four months. Being away from home two days a week and caring for a person who can’t do much for themselves was hard, especially since I was experiencing energy issues myself. My dad had been struggling health–wise, so I was spending a lot more time doing things around the house, or driving people places.

What have I learned from all this? I have learned that yes, it is very discouraging when you don’t meet your goals, but that doesn’t make it a problem. Sometimes we need down time, sometimes God has other plans for us, and we shouldn’t put our writing above those that need us.

When you don’t meet your goals, evaluate yourself. Remember to give yourself some slack. God has a plan and purpose behind those interruptions.

Sarah Holman is a not so typical mid-twenties girl: A homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings, and author of five 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, September 3, 2014

The Story Behind "Playing By Heart"

Today, we are thrilled to welcome Anne Mateer as she discusses the story behind her new novel. Enjoy!

The Story Behind Playing by Heart

 Im never quite sure where my stories start. A character? A place? A situation? Whatever the birthplace, their really isnt a story spark until you begin to ask, what if?

The genesis of Playing by Heart wasn’t really any different. I’m drawn to including bits and pieces of family history into my stories. The situational spark for Wings of a Dream happened to my paternal grandmother. What about my maternal grandparents? Any stories worth telling there?

My grandparents were awesome people. Not only did they leave us a heritage of godliness, they left us a legacy of education. They both—yes, both—received master’s degrees during the 1930s at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University). For my grandfather, that meant a lot of work in between semesters of study. For my grandmother, it meant waiting on my grandfather to finish so they could marry. Armed with her second degree, Grandmother sought a teaching job in Oklahoma. She found one, but it required her to take on an extra job as well—that of girls basketball coach. Now my grandmother was a lot of things, but she wasn’t athletic, even though she had an aunt who coached high school girls. But she accepted the job anyway.

I don’t really know what she encountered in that year, but that’s what’s so great about an imagination! Suddenly I had a girl in a slightly different era (1917) seeking a higher education. But what if she was thrust back into a high school setting? And what if she were pulled between “serious” pursuits and the love of music she’d denied herself in an effort to put her childhood nickname—Fruity Lu—behind her?

Did I mention that my grandmother’s nickname growing up was Fruity Lu? Yes, it was! She was a smart girl, but apparently a little lacking in common sense.

Throw into the mix of family connections that my son is currently in college to become a teacher and a basketball coach and both of my parents, two of my sisters, and a sister-in-law are teachers, and suddenly a cast of characters bloomed around Lula Bowman and her attempts to make sense of her life after putting her schooling on hold to care for her newly widowed sister.

My “story behind the story” is never really a neat package, as you can see. It’s bits and pieces of colored glass baked until they ooze into one object, a conglomeration that suddenly becomes a whole new thing. I love that part of the process, because isn’t that what God does with us? He takes the bits and pieces of our lives—our personalities, our failures, our successes, our family situations and experiences—and creates a whole new person in the light of His power and grace. 

It’s my prayer that my stories reflect God’s creative work in some small way. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Lessons from Writing Historical Fiction

by Sarah Holman

I recently published my first true historical fiction, A Different Kind of Courage.  While writing it, I learned a lot of lessons. Some of the lessons, I’ve got to pat myself on the back for getting right the first time. Others… well, others I learned for use in the future. Today, I would like to share some of those lessons I learned with you.

Do your research. ~ I am happy to say that this is one I got right. I spent hours, days, and months checking and rechecking facts, reading books, and looking at old maps. Not everything will make it into the book directly, but it will all help you get a feel for the times you are working in.

Keep track of you research. ~ This is a lesson I learned the hard way. I would know I discovered a fact, read a story, or found a great map, but I couldn’t locate where I found it afterwards. Make sure you make notes of the facts you find and where you found them.

Don’t worry about others. ~ Unfortunately, you will never know everything there is to know about a particular time in history. You will get some people telling you that you made mistakes; sometimes they will be right, and sometimes they will be wrong. Don’t worry about it, just make sure it is the best you can do and ignore the overly picky readers.

Read a lot of primary sources. ~ If at all possible, read things written at the time in history you are researching. I read many letters from and to my main historical character, Dr. Joseph Warren. Primary sources are a valuable resource, especially since everyone has their own slant as to what happened. Be prepared, though, to find out that some historical characters are not the way you always imagined them.

Take your time. ~ I thought that A Different Kind of Courage would take me about four months to write, edit, and publish. It ended up taking over six months. It was frustrating, but I needed that extra time to make the story not just good, but great. Historical fiction often takes a lot more time than you think it will, but that is oaky.

There is nothing like it. ~ I found that A Different Kind of Courage was one of the most satisfying books I had ever written. Helping to give readers a better feeling to places and events of the past was very rewarding.

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned?

Sarah Holman is a not so typical mid-twenties girl: A homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings, and author of five 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.