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Friday, October 23


 I think the word I chose at the beginning of the year was Proactivate. Which, of course, I made up. But, it encapsuled what I wanted my year to look like--me making decisions for my future and my happiness instead of just going along with the flow. Instead of being reactive to the world around me.

Well, that didn't happen. 2020 couldn't help but become a reactive year. For me it started at the end of 2019 when we lost two of our management staff to firings and went into the holiday season down an assistant store manager and with a newly promoted shift lead. Work was busy and full of stress.

Then in January, my youngest sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. Happily they got it super early, stage 0, and she's all good. But, the two weeks of not-knowing were pretty tough. And the end of January, I had my first (of three) kidney stones. That was fun.

And then Covid hit and nobody's life is the same anymore. As we've gone through employees like water, work has continued to be stressed. I feel like I'm running on a hamster wheel and not getting anywhere.

Right, back to the beginning and the year of Proactivate. 

I've made two, maybe three, decisions to help me get off that hamster wheel and be proactive about my future as a writer.

First, I entered Once Upon A Book Club contest to write a short story for their Advent box and won a spot. My short story (

 will be the first one in the pamphlet and I believe this could be an amazing opportunity/calling card for my own publication dreams.  To that end, I've been working on wrapping up Suitcases.

Secondly, I've decided to participate in NANO this November. It's been a while since I've committed to NANO. While I think there are some great things about NANO--teaching writers that they can focus on writing daily, and basically taking a time-out from life to get this done. I don't care if I "win" by finishing my novel or writing 50K words. I'm going to be happy to just get a jump on the new project---turning my short story Finding La Sabrenenque into a full length novel. 

And after that, I have a sequel in my head for Analise, Danny, and her suitcases. Right now, I'm collecting notes in a notebook and letting the idea perculoate. 

My third decision was to purchase a three month membership to Silk and Sonder. I am in awe of Kristi's organization and planner. I've tried buying a planner every year at B&N, but I never really get past January.

But, Silk and Sonder's planner is sent monthly. I'm starting in November. And it's also about being mindful of your feelings and your life. And finding serenity. And peeps, I need me some serenity. I like that it's small notebook size and thin, kind of planner/journal.  I can take it with me easily if I'm so inclined. And each month has a new focus. November's is Happiness. If you're interested in checking them out, here's my link to:

So, that's it. Wish me well on my new Proactivate journey :) 

Mask up and Be well!

Thursday, October 22

Back Where I Belong by Shawn Dalton-Smith

 It is so much fun when Word Wranglers who have retired from the blog come back to visit! We miss Shawn Dalton-Smith so much, but she doesn't seem to have any trouble staying busy without us! Here she is with a gorgeous new cover. Welcome home, Shawn!

Shawn Dalton-Smith

I took a little (no, make that a long) break from writing. I don’t know why, but I lost interest. I immersed myself in my job, my grandchildren, my home. My granddaughter came to live with us, and it was nice having a child in the house again.

Now that the pandemic has hit, I don’t get to see my grandsons as often as I would like. Thankfully, my husband works from home, so he is with our granddaughter for remote learning. I’m an essential worker (nurse by day) so I don’t get to do the stay-at-home thing. My life became a delicate balancing act, learning to spend time with family in a new and safe way. Work, raising a child, spending quality time with hubby. It’s hectic, to say the least. But something was missing.

My characters called me back. It was subtle, at first. A song that whispered, “Wouldn’t this make a great story?” A couple in the park who just realized they were soul mates, and wanted their story told.

I ignored the pull. I wasn’t going to get sucked back in. Back to the hair pulling, want to pound my head on the desk scenes that wouldn’t come together. The character who wouldn’t cooperate, the idea that you just spent two hours writing pure crap.

Then, I got the rights to all my stories back. My old characters invaded my brain with a vengeance. New characters surfaced in my head. They were no longer subtle. They jumped on my back and insisted I get my behind back in the chair. Malachi, Somiar, Kalyste, Jude, Ella and Blake (all characters) demanded to know what happened to the series I promised them.

They say the best way to start a story is at the beginning. So, here I am. Dreamers are back. But there are quite a few changes. Hang on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen. All my characters are in for a wild ride. And when they meet, it will blow your mind!


When Malachi Walker saves Somiar Ayers from the Dreamer he's been hunting for years, he can't believe his luck. If he can keep her alive, he can catch the one Dreamer who's haunted him most of his adult life, and is responsible for the death of the man who was like a father to him.
In one night, Somiar's world is shattered when she finds out not only is she adopted, but comes from a race of female assassins called Dreamers. Unable to leave fingerprints or DNA, they are the perfect weapon. Now that her biological mother has been caught, Somiar is tasked to get her back. At any cost. In a deadly game of cat and mouse, Somiar must find her mother before Malachi finds out she is the key to the Dreamer he's been seeking for years. As the past descends on them and the truth of their history unfolds, they are faced with the fight of their life. But who is the cat, and who is the mouse?

Find Dreamers here.

Tuesday, October 20

How To: Proposal Preparation ~ @AuthorKristina Knight

So you’ve written your book, that means you’re ready to submit to an editor, right? The simple answer is yes, but the actual answer is yes, but. 

It’s been a while since I’ve done a how-to post here on the blog, and I realize not all of this information will be helpful to everyone reading, but I think it’s never a bad thing to go through our personal proposal processes to make sure we’re putting our best author foot forward. So, here we go: 3 Steps to Prep Your Proposal for Submission. 

Step 1. Read the submission guidelines. And then read them again. I know, submission guidelines aren’t sexy or fun to read but there is a wealth of information in them, especially for houses that allow writers to submit without an agent. Those submission guidelines will tell you what the editors are expecting to get -- Do they way one sample chapter or three, should include a synopsis? What kind of information do they want in your cover letter? What formatting are they looking for – standard font and spacing. Then, read between the lines. Submission guidelines will tell you what the editor wants, but may also include information about the kinds of books they want – wholesome and small town, sexy in the city, ghosties in the house, fairies in outerspace, etc. This is information you can add about your book in the cover letter. 

Step 2. Do a final read-through of your manuscript and other documents. You wrote the story so you know it forward and backward, but now that you’ve read back through the submission guidelines, is there anything you feel needs to be updated in your book? Is there something that sets your book apart, that you can highlight either in your synopsis or covering letter? Did you find a few typos or grammatical mistakes that make you cringe? Reading through one last time gives you one last time to make sure you’ve hit all the highlights, dotted all those I’s and crossed all those T’s. 

Step 3. Upload and then move forward. It can be easy to stalk email waiting for a reply, but that doesn’t move you forward. So, upload the submission and then try – really, really try – to put it out of your mind. Celebrate by taking yourself out to lunch or to buy something fun. Read a favorite author. Watch a movie you’ve been putting off. Start the next book. Celebrating the little wins is so important because much of the writer’s life is very solitary so do something fun and then get on to the next story. 

Do you have any submission tips for our readers? Share in the comments!

Friday, October 16

Ducks and Dickens by Liz Flaherty #WordWranglers

My writing career has changed drastically lately, but I've talked about that already. You've survived the drama of my rejections, of my what-shall-I-do vacillations. I'm still dithering about my future in romantic fiction, but in the mean time...

Long ago I took a creative writing course offered by columnist Vicki Williams. That was when I realized I didn't have to get my life ducks all in a row to be a writer. Of course, I didn't. Writers never have their ducks in a row--what was I thinking! Regardless of the house, the kids, the husband, and the more-than-fulltime job, if I was going to write, I needed to just do it. Ducks be damned.

I sold a few stories and soon I was a stringer for the local newspaper. And then Jeff Ward, the editor I wrote for, let me write a column. The Window Over the Sink was born in 1988 and it has run sporadically ever since. Even now, when it's not in any newspapers, it's still on my personal blog. Every Saturday.

My husband Duane, who's not a reader, is nevertheless the head of my entire fan club. For years, he has asked me to compile a group of columns into a book. I've said, "I'll get to it. I promise." A few years back, I started saying, "This year, for sure."

But I dreaded it. I dreaded choosing what essays I would use. What order I'd put them in. What my theme would be. How long to make the book. Should I look for a publisher? Should I do it myself? I needed...didn't Duane understand that before I could create this book from the pieces of my writing life I needed to have my ducks in a...

Oh. Right.

So, when I finished my last project, I got started. I put the columns together as willy-nilly as I wrote them, starting with a New Year's one and finishing with two Christmas ones. (You know me and Christmas, right?) I didn't edit them for content, because they needed to reflect how I felt when I wrote them. Someone's making my covers, Nan caught typos and made the manuscript look a lot more professional than I had. It will be available soon. I'll let you know when. 

I'm excited. And I have learned a valuable lesson. One I've learned before and will undoubtedly learn again.

It doesn't matter about the ducks. 


Christmas Comes to Dickens, an anthology by 10 award-winning and/or bestselling authors, is available for pre-order now. It will be released on October 26. In case you haven't checked out yet, here are the stories.

Welcome to Dickens—a quaint New England town bustling with excitement and anticipation for the upcoming Christmas holiday. We have the annual tree lighting in the town square, a snowman building competition, ice skating on Grosvenor’s Pond, and horse-drawn sleigh rides. You’re welcome to cut down your own Christmas tree at Gridley Meadows, or join in the caroling on the Common.

Dickens offers an abundance of heartfelt wishes, a few much needed miracles, and—quite possibly—a touch of magic! Families reunite, new friends are made, and old flames take a second chance at happiness. All while celebrating this most joyful time of the year.

Join us as our best selling and award winning authors fill your holiday stocking with ten brand new novellas ranging from sweet to sassy, including:

Millie’s Awesome Holiday Miracle by Top 100 Author Nancy Fraser ~ She’s an overworked single mom struggling to make ends meet. He’s the handsome CEO who’s come to Dickens to save—or close—the toy factory. Can one precocious little girl bring a couple of much-needed miracles to the people she cares about most?

Miracle At Holly Hill Inn by Top 100 Author Maddie James ~ Ariana is looking for the perfect Christmas village. Instead, she finds the town Scrooge. Will two days snowbound together at Holly Hill Inn bring them closer together, or send them each on their merry way?

Holiday Hearts by Top 100 Author Caroline Clemmons ~ Laura Jordan’s beauty and sense of humor are more apparent than her sharp mind, soft heart, and strict code of right and wrong. Ward Callahan has avoided romantic complications to throw himself into building his ad agency. Once he meets Laura, he falls hard but must convince her that dating her boss is not inappropriate. Can he convince her he doesn’t want her heart only for the holidays, but forever?

The Tinsel Tango by Best Selling Author Bonnie Edwards ~ Brenna needs some R&R over Christmas in Dickens. Tango lessons from mysterious Jett…Smith? may bring her everything her heart desires, but his secrets may kill the love they find.

Wisdom of the Heart by USA Today Best Selling Author Liz Flaherty ~ They were best friends who fell in love, but that was high school. Life and families and other loves had happened since that dear and distant time. They're friends again, comfortable with each other and having so much fun at Christmas time in Dickens. They're not still in love, but...wait...could it be happening again?

Operation Snowball by Best Selling Author Kathryn Hills ~ Returning to small town life is hard for Army veteran John Gridley. The last thing he expects to find is love with the beautiful widow, Heather Murphy. Can the perfect Christmas tree and a missing cat named Snowball bring them together despite meddling townsfolk?

Angel Kisses and Holiday Wishes by Best Selling Author Peggy Jaeger ~ When Sage left town 18 years ago, she left Keith's heart in tatters. Now she's back, and he's wondering if they can put the past behind them and rekindle the love they lost.

Holly’s Wish by Top 100 Author Kathleen Lawless ~ What if the girl who got away is actually standing right in front of you? Years earlier, Nico and Holly shared one magical Christmas Eve. She never stopped wishing he’d find where she left her number.
When he does, is it too late?

Holiday Heart Wishes by Award Winning Author Lucinda Race ~ On her way into Dickens to visit family, Vera picks up Tony, a stranded motorist. Rather than part ways when they arrive, they discover their loved ones are intent on getting married. Can they slow down the older couple's rush to the altar? Or, will holiday heart wishes come true for everyone?

Santa’s Wish by Best Selling Author Jan Scarbrough ~ Will Christmas magic help them overcome Roz’s career ambitions and Cooper’s grief, and bring them together for a second chance at love?

Here's the link again. I hope you enjoy reading the stories as much as we liked writing them!

Wednesday, October 14

Karen Malley and Following the Sparrows #WordWranglers


The Wranglers are pleased to welcome Christian fiction writer Karen Malley to the corral today. We are so happy to have you, Karen. Make yourself at home.

I’ve always loved writing, and have dabbled in short stories over the years, but a few years ago God placed the idea in my head it was time to write more. Following the Sparrows came about in bits and pieces over the course of the next few years, in between taking my kids to baseball practices, soccer games, scouts, and working full time as a scientist. My first heroine had to be a scientist, because, quite frankly, how many Christian romance novels feature one? None that I know of. It’s always been a mission of mine to tell the world it’s ok to believe in science and in God, because science wouldn’t exist without God. It takes a while for Kathryn to figure that out, but she eventually gets the message.

I’ve always loved reading Christian fiction, and I hope you do too. Thanks for taking the time to learn a little more about me today!


Kathryn Baker is trying to escape her past...

After the tragic death of her husband, Kathryn throws herself into her scientific career. She hopes to right the wrongs of her past before they catch up to her. But when she runs into a handsome stranger, she discovers that he just might hold the key to her future.

Adam Harrison is tired of running from his past...

After losing everything he worked for in life, Adam is finally ready to follow the path God has for him. When a series of chance meetings brings him to Kathryn, he considers the possibility of loving again. But Kathryn is still on the run from God and from her past.

Can Adam convince Kathryn to stop running and trust him with her secrets, or will her fear make it impossible for them to have a future together?

Excerpt from Following the Sparrows

“One of the officers who worked on the scene of Robert’s accident is a member of this church,” Mark said.

Kathryn’s pulse quickened. “Did they find out something more? Was it not an accident?”

“No, they are convinced it was an accident. Robert was on the phone, and was a little distracted, but the other driver ran the red light.”

“That’s what they told me, too. But what about the other driver? Did he hit Robert on purpose?”

Mark’s eyes narrowed. “Katie, it’s not normal to think someone would hit Robert on purpose. The other driver was a teenage boy. He simply didn’t have much driving experience.” His eyes bore into hers. “Why do you believe someone has a reason to hurt Robert?”
            Kathryn paled. This conversation wasn’t going the way she expected. “I, I don’t…” she stammered. “I asked the officers why the wreck happened.”

 “Does this have something to do with what happened in California?” Mark asked.

Kathryn’s head jolted up, her eyes wide. “How could you possibly know?” She clapped her hand over her mouth, willing the words back in, but it was too late.

Mark folded his arms across his chest. “Katie, I need you to tell me if there is a reason why you, Robert, or anyone else in my family might be in danger.”

Kathryn’s insides twisted into a knot. Guilt and dread filled her. She never thought about her connection to the Campbells. If anything happened to those kids because of her stupid mistake…

Mark put his hand on hers. “Katie, you can talk to me in complete confidence.”

Kathryn met his eyes, hers filling with hot tears.

“What do you know about California?” she asked.

“Only that Robert was worried about you. The last year you were out there, he said you grew distant, almost paranoid. He said he tried to ask you about it, but you always found a way to avoid the conversation. You were always away from home, spending all your time at the university. At first he thought there was another man, but later he thought there was more to it.”

Kathryn slumped against the chair as Mark continued.

“He confided in me because he needed someone to help him process it all. We talked about it a lot when you first moved back here, but he seemed to think it was no longer an issue since you moved. Now with the way you’ve reacted to the accident, I put two and two together and assumed it was related.”

Kathryn’s gaze fell to the table. Would she never be rid of this guilt and shame? She couldn’t handle the idea of Mark and Anne finding out what she’d done, but she needed to see if Charlie was still a threat to her.

 “I was never involved with another man,” she said. “But something did happen out there that made me scared. I didn’t know what to do.”

Mark patted her hand and passed over a box of tissues. He was obviously not a stranger to having people break down in his office. Kathryn wasn’t about to lose it now, not after braving so much. She studied his face. She’d kept silent for so long. Mark was a pastor, after all. She could trust him…

But no, that was it. She didn’t want him to realize what a terrible person she was. She would handle it on her own, the same way she always did.

“I wanted to tell Robert, but I didn’t want him involved. I thought if I told him, they would go after him. I thought they finally found me and went after him anyway.”

Mark’s eyes were wide. He was visibly shaken. “Katie, if you’re afraid you’re in danger, you need to talk to the police.”

Her head jerked up, panic stricken. “No! I couldn’t do that.”


Karen is an author of Christian fiction. She lives in Southeastern Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons. She works full time as a scientist, but enjoys writing in her spare time. When not writing (with her left hand), she enjoys camping, hiking, playing board games, and especially reading! She loves reading faith-based stories, because we can all use a happy ending.



Amazon author page:


Link to buy the book:


Tuesday, October 13

And Then Stuff Happens...

I'm at that middle place in the new book. You know that place where you've got a solid beginning and you know how the story will end, but now, you have to keep your characters occupied and build tension for about thirty thousand words. 

It's my least favorite part of writing, although this book feels a little more arduous than the others I've written. I'm thinking it may be because I'm still in River's Edge, but I'm not writing about the Flaherty brothers or the winery. Instead, I'm creating a whole new family and entirely different situations. But my mind is still at the winery. So early this week, I reread all that I had written so far, focused on the Flahertys as secondary characters and that really seemed to help me dig into these new brothers. 

The main thing is, although these brothers are close and have each others' backs, they aren't as forthcoming and intimate as the Flaherty boys, mainly because they weren't raised by Donal and Maggie--they have a ne'er-do-well for a dad and mom who has just been trying to keep food on the table and a roof over her boys' heads for years and years. So, a lot of exploration of family dynamics in this new series--way less than in the Four Irish Brothers Winery series. I think that's a good thing though, don't you? It's how we grow as writers and as people, maybe. 

And these are the kinds of things Liz and I talk about mornings on G-chat and when we have our writing days together. A writer's life is always interesting, except when they're not and always fun, even when they aren't and rarely arduous, unless they're trying to get words down on the page. 😏

Stay safe and stay well, mes amies, but most especially, stay grateful!