What I Discovered about Writer’s Digest

wd COVER RESIZEDRecently, I began subscribing to Writer’s Digest. Others had sung its praises but I hadn’t bothered until now. I had no idea what a treasure I’d been neglecting.

It is full of all sorts of writerly stuff. How- to articles for marketing. Business articles on taxes and record keeping. Interviews with authors, book reviews and so much more.

Whether you write fiction or non-fiction this is a great resource. I learned things I didn’t know I didn’t know.

In the February 2016 issue I found some fascinating things. For example, an article, Publishing Decoded by Phil Sexton shared the needed to approve the spine font not just the cover font. Because the spine is often what is displayed at bookstores. It needs to be eye-catching. Did you know publishers pay for special placement at book stores? That’s when the front cover is visible.

A writing craft article entitled The Art if Distraction by Jane K Cleland explained Red Herrings are not just found in mysteries.

It’s a mini-conference between its pages. Monthly columns introduce you to various agents and what they are looking for, author interviews, conference information and more. Not to mention, book reviews and ads relevant to writing i.e. editing services and writing courses.

wd COVER 2 RESIZEDI carry the magazine around in my purse so it is handy when I have a moment in a waiting room or waiting in the car. (Yes, I have a big purse.) I read during my lunchbreak at work and when I need a break from writing.

The price is worth the investment. Lots of new information with every issue. If you are serious about your writing, you really needed to add Writers Digest to your writer’s toolbox.

Have you checked out Writer’s Digest? What’s your take on it?

If you want to continue receiving new blog posts subscribe in the right hand column, please and thank you.

The winner of the free copy of Her Deadly Inheritance  we are giving away this week is Kathy Thomas.

A Visit with Author Beth Ann Ziarnick and a Giveaway

I’ve been reading alot in January and it is reflected in my second author interview in so many weeks. I love to share author stories and I hope you love reading them.

Beth's head shot-2

Today I am welcoming Beth Ann Ziarnik to Writer’s Patchwork. We met at The Write-to-Publish Conference a few years ago where she won a publisher’s award at the banquet with her debut novel Her Deadly Inheritance. I’m so excited about its recent release. I enjoyed the story and the creative way you told it. Click to read my review.

Below is the a little taste of the story for those who have not read it yet.

First a runaway. Now running for her life. Won’t Jill Shepherd’s family be surprised when she returns to Grand Island, Michigan to end their scheme to have her declared legally dead? But when Jill exposes the mastermind behind her intended death, her family’s deception may kill any chance she has of remaining alive.

Clay Merrick may seem to be little more than a handy-man restoring homes, but when the former Special Forces operative tracks a brutal killer to Jill’s historic house under renovation, he has most of the evidence he needs to bring the killer to justice … until Jill gets in the way.

When the killer sets sights on Jill as the next victim, it’s not just Clay s mission on the line, but his heart.HerDeadlyInheritanceColor-2

Beth, I’m thrilled to have you visit with me today. Let me take your coat. Watch out, don’t trip over the pile of shoes near the front door. Come, join me in the kitchen for coffee and Danish.

Thank you for inviting me, Cindy. It’s great to be here. Oh, is that lemon-centered Danish? My favorite! How did you know? <G>

It’s such an honor to have you take time from your busy promoting schedule to share with my readers some of the background story to Her Deadly Inheritance.

My pleasure!

Let me start out Q & A with a question all my readers want to know. Where did the idea come for Her Deadly Inheritance?

The idea first germinated while I was reading yet another wonderful romantic suspense—even then my favorite genre. I wondered how the faith of Christian heroes and heroines might affect the choices necessary in the difficult circumstances of a romantic suspense. From there I took the basics—isolated and exotic location, frightening suspense, the falling in love of two unlikely people, etc.—and started praying and asking myself, “What if?” Jill and Clay and pieces of their story started to form. I wrote those short scenes and chucked them into a folder until I finally had enough to see a story emerging.

Tell me, how did you come to choose Upper Michigan for your setting?

I live in northeast Wisconsin and was looking for an island for my novel’s setting, one that was somewhat remote and exotic. Eureka! I found it in The Grand Island Story by Beatrice H. Castle. The location had everything I needed. My husband and I made two trips to Munising and Grand Island MI to research the setting. Forest ranger David Worel and a few other local people were kind enough to help. We loved the community and its old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration. I just knew I had found the right place and time for Jill and Clay’s story.

Why renovating houses as the backdrop?

I needed a reason for Clay to be there and interact with Jill while they fell in love. I’m also an architecture addict and cheer on the restoration and upkeep of grand old historical homes of any era. So I borrowed Mark Twain’s Connecticut home, tweaked it a bit for my story’s purposes, and plopped it about half way up Grand Island’s east side over Trout Bay. I think that’s called literary license because the truth is: (1) There’s never been a house at that location, and (2) no one ever built a Victorian mansion on the island. You can go to the location on the Grand Island, but you will not find Jill’s house or any evidence of it. That element of the story is pure fiction on my part.

Besides visiting The Grand Island what other research did you do? I always like to know how other writer’s build their story world.

In addition to reading Mrs. Castle’s book and visiting the community to experience the story’s locale, I interviewed an officer at the sheriff’s department to find out how they might process a case such as the death of Jill’s mother and how quickly they could access the scene on the island. I also interviewed a couple of island residents about life on the island. I read everything I could about the history of the area and took pictures. I researched both Jill’s career as a genealogist and Clay’s as a restoration contractor, even interviewing a local restoration contractor. I made an online tour of Mark Twain’s house and collected articles and pictures so that I could better “walk” through the house as if I were there. Lots more because every aspect of a novel will have some research connected to it in order to make the story and its setting come alive.

Describe the personalities of your two main characters Jill Shephard and Clay Merrick. Did you model them after anyone in particular?

Though they are totally themselves, Jill has bits and pieces of me in her, and Clay has bits and pieces of my husband Jim in him. Jill’s tendency to be frightened yet bulldoze through her fear to a desired end is a little like me. So is her relationship with God. Clay’s steady purpose, his faithfulness, his muscles and love of family and playing ball are like Jim. As a matter of fact, the spectacular catch he fields in the ballgame scene is Jim’s. I saw my husband do that amazing thing! But truly, I had to write about Jill and Clay and observe them to come to know them. I never had anyone in mind as they developed.

What do you hope readers take away from your story?

I hope readers see that loving someone isn’t a walk in the park. It takes work and sacrifice but is so worth the effort. I also hope they will come to realize that if they obey God and give him enough time, he will make difficult situations come out for good in the right way and at the right time.

How long did it take from conception to publication?

Oh, boy! Her Deadly Inheritance was a long time in the making. The idea first occurred to me forty years ago. Romantic suspense wasn’t even on the Christian publishers radar screen back then, and I had a long way to go to learn the skills for writing fiction. I spent my early years being published in magazines and newspapers with articles and news stories. I also had twelve years of being just this side of wheelchair or bed-ridden with Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome. Not much happening then. But the dream and the story never went away. Then about six years ago, I decided to get serious. I focused entirely on the novel, working hard to acquire the needed skills, endlessly writing and rewriting and polishing. I started meeting editors and agents at conferences and sending out proposals. As close as I seemed to come to breaking through, nothing happened until the summer of 2013 when agent Jim Hart declared he loved my novel and wanted to represent me. Surely the Lord was at work! A year later, my novel won a big award during the Write-to-Publish banquet, and six months later, Rowena Kuo at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas offered a contract to publish my book. It took about a year to edit and polish a novel to bring it to its best. Meanwhile, other important preparations were in the works. But on January 2 this year, Her Deadly Inheritance released.

What have you learned along the way to publication that you can pass on to new writers?

  • No matter how tempting, don’t quit. Believe in yourself and the dream God put in your heart. Keep working at your craft, building your skills for storytelling.
  • Join a local Christian writers group—start one if you have to. I did. Join online writers groups, too. You will grow much faster as a novelist if you do. I love ACFW where I take monthly classes taught by professionals (free with the membership) and make friends who help me and whom I am blessed to help.
  • Go to Christian writers’ conferences seminars where you can learn more than you ever dreamed. Where you will make dear writer friends and meet editors, publishers, and agents. Again, where you will both help others and be helped.

I was very intrigued by the number of endorsements you have in the front of your book. Endorsements from noteworthy authors. Tell us how you managed to get them.

They all offered. These friends whom I’ve made down through years of going to conferences and seminars were almost more thrilled than I was when my dream came true. But they are also professionals whom I could count on to tell the truth.

Do you have any other projects in the works you would like to tell us about? Is there a sequel to Her Deadly Inheritance?

Jill and Clay’s story will continue for two more books, though each story can stand on its own. Yes, I’m putting them through two more horrendous suspense experiences that will threaten their lives and challenge their growing love to the breaking point. I am loving the writing of the second novel even more than the first, if that’s possible. <G> For this one, I borrowed the Pabst Mansion and it location in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Jill will meet her birth father face-to-face for the first time. But her long-time dream of a loving relationship with him turns into a Christmas nightmare she and Clay could never have foreseen.

Giveaway Hurrah!!

You mentioned you wanted to do a giveaway. So, readers, leave a comment to be put in the drawing. You have time to make a comment either here or on my Facebook page. Please share this blog with your friends so they can enter the contest too or pick up a copy at their favorite bookstore.

The winner will be contacted by me for email information to pass on to Beth. We will announce a winner on Friday.

More About Beth

A long-time fan of romantic suspense, Beth Ann Ziarnik offers her first novel with all the twists and turns, cliffhangers and romantic tension she and readers have come to love. She is a co-founder of Word & Pen Christian Writers in Northeast Wisconsin and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. In addition to her 450 published pieces (several included in anthologies), she is the author of Love With Shoes On, her ten-year devotional column about love in action and based on 1 Corinthians 13.

Currently, you can find her online at:





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Winners of Book Giveaway from J Andersen

J Andersen offered two e-books for commenters on Tuesday. Today we  drew names. I’ve included those who comment on my facebook page as well.

TBT-2 The winner of  e-book copy of The Breeding Tree is TLC Neilsen. At What Cost

The winner of the e-book copy of At What Cost is Carol Guthrie Heilman.

Ladies, contact me with you emails and I’ll pass them on to Jessica.

Interview and Giveaway with Author of The Breeding Tree J Andersen

J Andersen 2Today I’d like to introduce to you Jessie Andersen AKA J. Andersen author of the YA novel The Breeding Tree. I found this book compelling. And compare it to George Orwell’s classic 1984 that I read as a teen, The Breeding Tree is a wakeup call for the next generation. Check  out my review here. After reading it I had to interview the author for a deeper look.

Here’s the back cover copy if you’ve not yet read The Breeding Tree

When seventeen-year-old Katherine Dennard is selected to become a “Creation Specialist” in Sector 4, the opportunity sounds like a dream come true. But Kate soon discovers the darker side of her profession – the disposal of fetal organs and destruction of human life. It makes sense, really. In a society where disease and malformations don’t exist, human perfection demands that no genetic “mutants” be allowed to live. For Sector 4, “survival of the fittest” is not just a theory – it’s The Institute’s main mission.

When Kate discovers that The Institute is using her DNA to create new life, her work gets personal. In order to save her unviable son, she’ll have to trust Micah and his band of underground Natural Born Rebels. The problem is, if The Institute discovers her betrayal, the next body being disposed of could be hers.


Jessie, thanks so much for coming today. I’ve got chai latte tea and chocolate chip cookies. Take a seat on my slightly lumpy couch and let’s get started.

Cookies for breakfast! Perfect!

In my humble opinion The Breeding Tree is phenomenal and well-written. I am more than curious about the why behind this novel. Why write about genetic engineering and genocide?

I’ll try to make this long story short. It started with my first book, At What Cost. When I first realized I needed to write a book, I began praying about a topic. God told me ‘abortion’. I told him no. lol. He made me do it anyway. AWC was a YA contemporary. Once that was published, I thought I was done.

I’ve always wanted to write a dystopian novel. 1984 and The Giver are two of my all-time favorite books! If I had my way, I’d have started with a dystopian and hit that big swing with The Hunger Games and Divergent; however, nothing came to mind. It wasn’t until I finished another contemporary that I finally got the idea for The Breeding Tree.

I didn’t intend it to even touch the subject of abortion. After all, I’d already written that book, but as the story grew, I realized God wasn’t done having me write about that topic.

Because this was set in the distant future (or not so distant) I could embrace the concept of teens being trained for a medical career early on. What research did you do to create this world?

Maybe I shouldn’t confess this, but I do very little research. The only thing I looked up was double checking facts about fetal development… things I was pretty sure I already knew, but wanted to make sure my facts were right. I may interview someone about a specific detail that I want accurate, and I did shoot a gun to get those details right for book 2, but I don’t spend endless hours researching.

How long was this world in the creative stages of your mind before you actually set it to paper? And of course we want to know how long between concept and publication?

This one came on pretty fast. Once I get a concept, I mull it around for a few weeks or maybe a month or two. Then I sit down and hash out an outline. I’ll also brainstorm with a few friends. Usually, I’ll see one scene clearly, and it’s never the first chapter! I write that and then back up to see what’s going on around it.

As for concept to publication, the earliest writing I have saved on TBT is from March 2011. It was a scene about the great-grandmother being one of the last natural born humans in the community. I signed the contract for TBT in Nov of 2014, and the book was published in 2015. Now, it only took me about eight months to a year to write, but at the same time I was writing this, I was going through the editing and publication process for At What Cost, which was published in June of 2012. Whenever I’m not going through the publishing process for one book, I’m writing something new. I have three other completed books right now and one in the works. Gotta keep busy while I wait.

What were some of the obstacles you had to overcome on your road to publication?

No one wanted the story. It was a rough go that way. I can’t tell you how many notes my agent and I received about loving the writing or the characters but not resonating with the story. I think it’s different kind of story for YA because I write from such a conservative perspective. Much of what you see in the secular YA market is NOT from a conservative perspective. We also heard a lot of, “dystopian is on its way out.” So I feared I missed the trend. Like I said, if I’d had the idea for a dystopian five years earlier, that would have been great! In the back of my mind, though, I knew that dystopian would never go out. (Look at 1984 or Fahrenheit 451)

What was the one lesson you learned during this process that made you a better writer?

Ooh, tough question. I think I learned 2 things. 1. The whole process taught me about God’s timing. I would have loved the timing to be different, but I had to be patient. 2. I learned to have a plan, but not to hold so closely to it that I can’t deviate from it. There were things that came up in the story that took me on a different path. Instead of fighting that and sticking to my original plan, I let myself follow the plot bunny down the rabbit hole. This is difficult for a planner like me.

Do you have a word of advice for writers with a heart to tackle controversial topics?

Lol. Part of me wants to advise people to run away screaming when it comes to writing controversial topics. BUT that’s not what you should do! Controversial topics are hard because, well, they’re controversial. You will be rejected. And you’ll be rejected because people don’t want to hear your side of the story. Tell it anyway.

I think more and more, our society tends to try to shut down the conservative perspective on controversial topics. We see it in the news all the time, but that’s all the more reason why we need to write about them in a way that opens the eyes of the next generation. We have to be a voice for those who have never heard our perspective. So write! But know that it’s not going to be an easy go. Realize that some of those nasty reviews you get are because you’ve hit a nerve. We are marching into dangerous territory, and we must do so to lead the way for others to do the same. Who’s going to help clear the path with me?

It has been a blessing to have you with us today. Before we go I want to know if you have any writing projects in the works you’d like to talk about.

I always have projects in the works! Books 2 and 3 in The Breeding Tree series are done. I have another contemporary that’s completed and with my agent. Yes, it’s another controversial topic: Abstinence this time. I think it’s going to be especially difficult to sell because while it deals with abstinence, it has some sexual encounters. Sometimes you have to put the characters in difficult situations in order to give them choices to make. We’ll see how that goes. Lastly, I’m working on my first NON-controversial book. At least it is at this moment. Lol. Who knows, that might change by the time it’s completed.

Thank you so much for hosting me. I’ve enjoyed chatting with you and your readers.

I’ve loved this time together as well.

Book Giveaways

I’m giving away one e-book of The Breeding Tree, and one e-book of At What Cost.At What Cost


Awesome! Okay, everyone who reads my blog needs to comment. You can ask J a question about her books or writing or just request you name be put in the drawing. Pass this blog along to your friends and let me know and I’ll give you an additional entry. I’ll contact the winner for their email info to pass on to Jessica. The drawing will take place and the inner will be announced on Friday.

More about J. Andersen

There’s not much to do growing up in a small town in Western, NY, so J. Andersen wrote stories and won high school writing contests. But in college her writing was limited to term papers. While teaching middle school she began to read young adult books and got serious about writing. She now writes full time, volunteers at the town library, helps to run a School of the Arts at her church, and sings in the church band. She enjoys good coffee—read: home roasted by her husband—crafts, baking, and chasing after her children. You’ll rarely see J. without a book in her hands, and that’s the way she’d like to keep it.

Ways to follow J. Andersen:

Website: https://www.jandersenbooks.com   Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jandersenbooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JVDLAndersen   Goodreads: https://goodreads.com/jvdlandersen

Instagram: https://instagram.com/jvdlandersen   Snapchat ID: jvdlandersen

Don’t forget to subscribe to Writer’s Patchwork. We will be having more great interviews and giveways in 2016. You don’t want to miss. Sign up today in the coulmn on the right.


Why Reading your WIP Outloud is Helpful

glasses on paper-2

Read your manuscript through outloud before your final submission. You will be surprised at the errors and weak spots you find.

Last Thursday I sent my manuscript to the publisher after my editor and I whittled it down to under 85,000 words. Whew! That was a challenge. Molly Jo sent me edits and I rewrote and reworked and rejected edits in turn. Over the years my novel has been critiqued by many writers and editors. I’d cut out 20,000 plus words over time only to find in the rewriting and reworking I’d added them back. (Bummer!!)

Read for flow

So, during out final edit together Molly Jo helped me carve away 20,000 plus words so we were under 84,000. It was painful to see my delicious paragraphs of description reduced to a few sentences. But the story was leaner and stronger without them. Once I’d gone through those last edits, I set it aside for a few days. I knew I had to do one last thing. Oh Dread! I needed to read the manuscript out loud. It’s not like I haven’t read it at least 50 times over the years as I’ve honed my writing craft on every word. Why bother to read it again and out loud for that matter. Because I must. At least every published author I know told me they did. They claim you can feel how will it flows when you do.


I needed a few days break between the completion of the rework and reading it out loud to give it fresh eyes and be in the right frame of mind. This is the same thing I did when I first received edits from Molly Jo. I put it off until I felt ready to tackle the inevitable. Waiting for my attitude to mellow. (My life is full of drama unrelated to my novel. I didn’t want irritation or sadness to affect my view of these precious words.)

Hearing my words helped

So on Tuesday night I started reading. I read most of Wednesday and on Thursday night I finished. It was awesome. I found a few phrases that needed fixing. A section I rewrote and another I deleted. (It was one Molly Jo suggested needed to go but I fought it.) Reading it out loud revealed so much to me. When I finished, I felt good about the end result. I am confident the publisher will find other things to tweak. I expect that. A burden lifted off my shoulders when I finally sent the final draft off.

Read outloud often through out the process

Read sections you are having trouble with as you crafted your novel. You’ll be amazed how much easier it will be to fix those tough sections when you hear your words. Find a quiet place to read it out loud or ask someone to read it to you. Hearing someone else read it can really help you see errors and flabby scenes. I’ve been told there are programs that read to you. After reading through this time, I am going to do my research on those products for my next novel. However you do it, read your novel out loud often, especially the final draft. You’ll be glad you did.

What has your experience been with reading your WIP outloud?

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A Lesson in Plot Twists from Supergirl


A different twist. That’s what I see every week as I watch Supergirl. The original trailer didn’t appeal to me but my husband was intrigued. Week after week it draws me in. Supergirl is not Superman. Both are from Krypton and she is his cousin. But beyond that the similarities stop. She has a group around her who know she is Supergirl. She is learning how to use her super powers and find her identity. She was sent to earth at the same time as Superman to be his protector when she was 13. However, her spacecraft was trapped in a time warp for 25 years. When she finally arrived on earth Superman is an adult and places her with a human family where she has a sister. No loner here. She knew her Kryptonian heritage and has a whole load of aliens to fight. Supergirl is not always in control of her emotions. She gets jealous, flustered and fights with her sister. Her alter ego Kyra Danvers works for a Media Company that is in direct competition with the Daily planet. She is not a reporter but the executive assistant to CatCo Media’s owner and CEO. Her tough female boss isn’t fooled by her glasses disguise. (Don’t you just love it.)

Melissa Benoist filming "Supergirl"


All these differences create a new Super world. One audiences are captivated by. The ssame applies to getting your novel out to the masses. Deadlock-DiAnn-Mills-134x210Take a common storyline and mix it up. DiAnn Mills has lots of strong female characters who are FBI, CIA and Secret Services agents and lots of other typical manly roles. The adventures speed along like Die Hard movies and crash to a dramatic conclusion.


A different twist in your novel

My debut historical novel has a rancher who sends for a mail order bride. There are many books with the mail order bride theme. My bride however is a doctor hiding form her past. The rancher is raising an orphan niece and there are characters who aren’t who they claim to be. The mail-order idea has been converted to a more modern setting by several authors with cyber dating, and marriage arrangements for material gain.

Every mystery has a problem to solve but the problem and the course of action have limitless possibilities. Some writers like Barndilyn Collins are heavy on research so lots of details educate as well as entertain the reader. Doulbe Blind

While others are sprinkled with humor and dorky characters. Check out Linda W.Yezak’s The Cat Lady’s Secret.Cat Lady's Secret-2


Crime novels can be written from any viewpoint even the family pet. We know romance novels always end with a couple finding true love. The journey to happily ever after has to have challenges that lend themselves to lots of “what if” moments. Otherwise its just—boring.

What novel have you read lately that surprised you with its delightful twists?