Andrea Merrell Shares: Is There Room in the Writing World for You?

Although this blog was posted on The Write Editing before Christmas I feel Andrea Merrell’s insights are spot on as we enter the New Year. A career in Writing is a difficult journey and as 2018 closes it’s easy to get discouraged and doubtful. I hope you find Andrea’s words as inspiring as I did.

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Is There Room in the Writing World for You?

By Andrea Merrell

It’s hard to know for sure how Mary must have felt the night she was about to give birth to the Savior of the world. Weary, cold, most likely hungry, and going into labor she was surely ready to climb off that donkey and crawl into a soft, warm bed.

But the only words she heard over and over were “no room.”

I can only imagine the other words she heard that night. “Sorry. Filled up. You should have gotten here earlier. Come back another time.” She might have even been told “our rooms are reserved for frequent, high-profile guests.” An earful of discouragement.

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At times we might face that same discouragement as writers—especially after a long journey of conferences, critique groups, appointments, classes, devouring books on the craft … and rejections.


No room. Sorry, that category is filled up. You should have submitted your proposal earlier. Come back another time after you rewrite your novel or come up with a new story. Your genre is not quite what we’re looking for at the moment. Yes, we have spots open, but they’re reserved for our high-profile, well-known authors.

That’s when the Enemy fills our mind with thoughts like: I might as well give up. What’s the point? I’m tired of trying. God must not have called me to do this after all. Maybe He’s even forgotten about me.


That’s when the fight-or-flight instinct kicks in. We either go into hiding or fight for what we want. We might shut down our computers and quit or try to break down the door that has been closed to us. Either way, it’s a waiting game.


So, what should we do while we’re waiting? Just keep on, as they say, keepin’ on. Do what God has called us to do. We should never be tempted to try and promote ourselves. That’s God’s job, and He takes it seriously. He’s also very good at it. We need to look to Him for acceptance and approval, find our significance and self-worth in our relationship with Him. One pastor says, “In God’s kingdom you don’t achieve success on your own, you receive it from God. Let others compete and compare. Just stay faithful in what God’s given you to do—and when the time is right … He’ll come and get you.”

I love that statement “He’ll come and get you.” Just like He came after David as the young shepherd was tending sheep, doing the job he was given to do, while his brothers were striving to be Israel’s next king. God had a plan. He knew exactly where David was and how to find him. When the time was right, God sent for him.

The truth is in God’s kingdom there’s always enough room—for all of us. When we belong to and work for the Creator of the universe, the Master of Creativity, there is never a shortage of opportunities. The venue you have in mind may not be the one He has reserved for you, but it’s there with your name on it—not someone with more notoriety.

As a child of God, He has a plan and purpose for you and for your writing. He knows exactly where you are and how to find you. Trust Him for His perfect timing. He will open doors of opportunity that no one else can. There is more than enough room in the writing world—for you!


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(Photo courtesy of

I loved the encouragement Andrea brings to my writer’s heart. It is hard to soldier on in our calling as Writers when doors are closing all around. And even when publishers doors open wide and we feel at last we’ve arrive our own lack of confidence can sabatoga our career goals. I’m starting 2019  with a commitment to renew my trust in the Savior to guide me through the next twelve months as I continue to write, allowing him to be in charge.



Cozy up with a Christmas Novella

The Holiday season can be a busy time of year. For me it’s not Christmas without reading a few Christmas novels. It’s a tradition as beloved as watching the cheesy Hallmark movies. If you can’t read a whole novel why not a novella?

Let me share a few I’ve read this year.

A Door County Christmas


All four novellas are set in Door County, all have a Christmas cactus in the mix and each has healing framed in humor.

Backcover copy

.In this new and updated release of a popular Christmas novella collection, peer behind the closed doors of a Wisconsin tourist town gone dormant for the winter season. Watch as the drama and romance start to heat up—just as Lola the innkeeper promised her four single friends a year ago when she gifted them with her prayers and a Christmas cactus. Will each woman find love—along with cactus blooms—as promised?


If you only have time to read one Christmas novella I strongly recommend The ornament Keeper.

The Ornament Keeper.


Eva Marie Everson is a fav author of mine. She writes southern fiction that keeps the reader engaged and in the scene until the last word on the last page. The main characters in this novella are married with a family and a messed-up relationship. As a reader we get to see the problems. It takes the couple a bit longer to figure it out. Ornaments play a key role in revealing things to the reader. I loved it. Read it in a few hours.

Back Cover copy:

Award-winning author Eva Marie Everson wraps up a Christmas story of hope, love, and forgiveness just in time for the holidays. The Ornament Keeper, a contemporary Christmas novella, features Felicia and Jackson Morgan who are spending their first Christmas apart after twenty years of marriage. But a lifetime of gifted ornaments helps Felicia piece together the story of their marriage and the one mistake of unforgiveness she made before they said, “I do.” Can these memory-filled ornaments reunite this family before Christmas? Only time will tell.

For all my historical romance readers you’ll love Mary Conneally’s collection.

Three Christmas Novellas: Longhorn Christmas, The Sweetest Gift, and The Christmas Candle.

Three aweet stories that take you back to a different time and remind you of the true meaning of Christmas. I was particularly interested in The Sweet Gift as it is based on her great grandparents love story.


Back cover copy:

Three previously released Christmas novellas.
Longhorn Christmas
Netty Lewis, a lonely young widow is saved from a raging mama longhorn by a passing cowboy who’s been wandering since the end of the Civil War.
She needs help surviving her rugged life and caring for Jeremiah, her young son. And that means rounding up a nice-sized herd of wild-as-wolves longhorns.
Netty and Roy, along with Jeremiah begin a journey toward Christmas, family, home and love.
And a herd of longhorns are making the way hard.

A sweet re-telling of The Gift of the Magi–with a happy ending
The Sweetest Gift
She longs for music. He needs a valuable horse to improve his herd.
When Christmas comes the gift they truly give is the gift of love.

The Christmas Candle
A lonely widower with a pair of out-of-control sons he never got to know while their mother was alive.
A woman with a love of nature and beauty and scent…and the little boys seem determined to destroy her way of life.
A feisty Ozark mountain granny who doesn’t put up with much nonsense.
The gift of a candle for Christmas and a Christ child who is a perfect match for this scent of heaven.

Grab a blanket, your favorite beverage and snuggle up with a Christmas story. Share in the comments your favorite Christmas novel, novella or collection. Maybe it will inspire someone for a last minute Christmas gift.




Co-Authors Chris and Patty tell how they make it work

My special guests today are a co-author team. I met Patricia Shinn Wojtowicz and Christine Petersen Streed at a Library Author Faire this past October.

Co-authorship is rare. I’m impressed they’ve remained friends and continue to co-author novels. I asked them to come and share how they do it.

 First off, tell us how you met?

The answer to this question spans distance and time because before we knew each other, we were both members of the same writing organization—SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), but Chris lived in Illinois and Patty in New Jersey. When Patty moved to Illinois in 2006, she joined the SCBWI critique group that Chris had been attending.

So what made you decide to co-author?

In 2009 we branched off on our own and began sharing and critiquing our individual writing projects. Realizing that our writing styles dovetailed nicely, we began writing together, eventually shifting from children’s literature to literary fiction. Writing vignettes is one of Patty’s strengths while Chris has a gift for big picture ideas that tie the story together. Crafting stories as a team keeps us motivated and allows us to play off of each other’s strengths.

We find inspiration in life’s milestones, drawing from those experiences to develop our stories. Our first novel, Relative Disenchantment, took seven years to complete as we worked around life events—children’s weddings, the births of grandchildren, the care of, and then, loss of parents. However, all the while our need to meet regularly and create characters on paper remained strong.

Wojtowicz_Streed Relative Disenchantment

What kind of personality do you feel is needed to team write?

For us, as introspective observers who like to play with the written word, our similar personalities and interests mesh together nicely. We strive to be open minded and respectful of each other’s contributions. We often use a “Yes and…” approach—a technique often used in improvisation—in that our storylines build on each other’s ideas. Neither of us feels individual ownership of our writing but see it as a collaborative and combined effort. Additionally, we are faithfully committed to our weekly writing time.

While not necessarily a personality trait, we made a conscience decision to flip our names on every other book, thus giving neither of us continual top billing. Relative Disenchantment is by Patricia Shinn Wojtowicz and Christine Petersen Streed; while the authors of Things I Don’t Talk About are Christine Petersen Streed and Patricia Shinn Wojtowicz.

Streed_Wojtowicz Things I Don't Talk About

Talk us through the day to day of co-authoring long distance.

Our collaboration recently took on an interesting dimension—writing together, but apart. Our first novel, Relative Disenchantment, was written while drinking tea in person at one or the other’s kitchen table. Early in the process of writing our second novel, Things I Don’t Talk About, Patty and her husband relocated to the Boston area. However, even with the new distance between us, we didn’t miss a beat. We jumped online and now hold our writing sessions via video conference calls.

As we write our novels, our process starts with discussing ideas and scenarios together online. Next, each of us writes short pieces based on our brainstorming. Sometimes these little essays make their way into our final manuscript but only after we spend time together reading through and reworking them.

Share the pros and cons of the working as a team


  • We have a built-in support system since we share an interest in our combined work.
  • Our weekly time together motivates us to keep our writing on track.
  • Technology makes it really easy to interact across long distances.



  • On the other hand, with technology, connectivity isn’t always reliable.
  • We have to remember our time difference (Eastern time vs. Central time).
  • We miss sharing a pot of tea.


If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing what would that be?

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Chris: I would tell my young self to be patient and remember that writing is about the long game. It takes time to develop good ideas, time to write, time to edit and rewrite, and time to get the word out about your writing through marketing. Pick good company for the journey of being a writer, and enjoy the ride!


Patty: Take more writing classes. Don’t be afraid to share what you write. Writing is a process, and as good as you think your first draft is, it can always be better, so share, edit, take critique as guidance, and keep writing, always.

Do you have any individual WIP that you hope to get published or are you two only working as a team?

Our collaborative work takes precedence right now. While we each have individual work, it is “in the drawer” because our combined approach to writing is so fulfilling to both of us.

Tell us about your books and your upcoming projects.

Joanna—the main character in Relative Disenchantment, our first novel (2017)—finds herself amid family turmoil and feels on edge. When her mother suddenly decides that beloved Grandma Ruth must move into a nursing home, Joanna leaves college under the guise of caring for her injured grandmother. Barely able to manage her own life, Joanna tries to intervene on Grandma Ruth’s behalf. Relative Disenchantment is a tale about growing up and seeing life and family in a new, and not always expected, light.


In September 2018, we self-published our second novel, Things I Don’t Talk About. It is the story of, Fern who’s not much of a talker, and Anita who can’t stop talking. The two friends have an unlikely bond that has sustained them through many life events. But when Fern begins to have medical concerns, and Anita considers moving far away, their relationship faces new challenges. In a quest for one last grab at independence, they set out on a road trip that will test their patience, their morals, and their friendship. Things I Don’t Talk About is a story about making difficult decisions amidst life changes.

Currently, we are collaborating on our third book. We can’t wait to see where our writing adventures take us this time.

Both of our books Relative Disenchantment and Things I Don’t Talk About are available on Amazon. Click on the links below to order.

Novels by Wojtowicz and Streed:

Relative Disenchantment

Things I Don’t Talk About

About these co-authors:

Patricia Shinn Wojtowicz is a retired college professor currently working as a stained glass artist in the Boston area. Patricia’s past experiences with her remarkable grandmothers and her current relationships with her amazing grandsons influence her as a writer.

Christine Petersen Streed is twice retired—first as a physical therapist and then as a communications director. She started writing while working in her professions and has been published in national trade journals and in local magazines.

Wojtowicz and Streed have been writing together since 2009. While both living in Illinois, they coauthored their first novel, Relative Disenchantment. Their collaboration took on an interesting dimension in 2017—writing together, but apart. Christine still lives in the Chicago area, but Patricia now resides in Boston. Despite the distance, they co-wrote their second novel, Things I Don’t Talk About, via video conference calls. Both authors find inspiration in the milestones of life, drawing from those experiences to develop their novels.

Visit them on social media:

Patricia Shinn Wojtowicz

Facebook: Relative Disenchantment


Amazon author page: Patricia Shinn Wojtowicz

Goodreads author pages: Patricia Shinn Wojtowicz

Christine Petersen Streed

Facebook: Relative Disenchantment


Amazon author page: Christine Petersen Streed

Goodreads author page: Christine Petersen Streed

If you have a question for these two lovely ladies about co-authoring that I didn’t ask post it in the comments. They’ll get back with an answer.


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Granddaughters, Christmas Trees, and the Writing Craft


Right after Thanksgiving my granddaughters once again helped me decorate my Christmas tree.  This experience was far more enjoyable then the first time I allowed them to help me. The girls are older, and their patience and ability have grown too. When they first started helping they were four, three and one. There were lots of clumped ornaments on the lower branches. Fights over who got to hang the pretty ones. It was a hard-fought battle of patience on my part to help them get the job done. This year frustration turned to joy as the girls work together to do a good job.


I instructed them to take their time and fill in all wholes on the tree, making sure each ornament is nicely displayed. It was a delight to watch them do just that. They asked my opinion on where something should go and helped each other adjust the ornaments. Grampa remarked on how beautiful it was, which was a first. He stays far away from the fray and helps me move any ornaments in a clutter later.  And it does look lovely thanks to my talented granddaughters.

Writing Craft

Gazing at our tree I am reminded of my writing journey. I hurried to get my first novel written. In five weeks, I had 100,000 words down. My granddaughters use to grab as many ornaments as they could and place them all in one spot.

A few months of editing with a friend who wasn’t a professional editor and I thought it was an award winner. My granddaughters insisted they knew best how to decorate. They got mad if I correct them.

Ten years later after learning to patiently rework sentences and fill in the holes in my stories with the advice of critique partners and editors I finally had a novel that was beautiful.


Like my grandchildren who’ve matured in their tree decorating abilities, I’ve matured in my writing craft. I continue to fix POV errors and rewrite weak paragraphs and eliminate weasel words. I’m on my fourth novel and much wiser to the time it takes to craft a saleable book that holds the reader’s interest and garners positive reviews.

Christmas Decorating

Next year the girls will be on their own. Their family will be moving into their own home and decorating a tree of their own. They have the skills to do a wonderful job. Yet they will help each other and seek their parent’s counsel as they complete the project.

As I work on my current WIP and move on to the next I’ll continue to grow in my ability to create stories. Like my Christmas tree decorations, I hope readers will consider my stories beautiful.

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Diane Samson shares about Gems of Fire and her writing journey

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Welcome Diane E. Samson, author of Gems of Fire. It is a delight to have you with us to talk about the writing life and your debut novel. Let’s start off with you telling my readers a little about your writing journey. There are areas that  parallel mine and many authors I’ve interviewed in the past few years. So exciting to see that.

I loved reading as a young child, but the beginning of my writing journey began with reading C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia in third grade. Although I might not have understood the underlying parallels until I was older, I remember clearly thinking to myself that I wanted to make other people feel the same magic, wonder and adventure that I felt from reading those books.

I was the editor of my high school newspaper, which for high school, was a rigorous program. My teacher encouraged me to major in journalism in college, so I earned a degree in magazine journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and began a career in that field. Though I worked in journalism, I still held close the dream that someday I’d write fiction, but at the time I’d use up all my words at work. So, I didn’t begin my fiction journey in earnest until I stayed home with my children and also worked as a freelance writer.

Version 2

I wrote Gems of Fire (working title was Finding Anna) during my children’s nap time and sometimes late at night. I finished the first draft more than ten years ago. I pursued agents and publishers at writing conferences and was even asked to submit some sample chapters to a famous editor, but in the end, no contracts came. Life got busy. We moved twice. While living in Connecticut I became friends with an incredible woman who worked for a literary agency. She was kind enough to read and edit a few chapters of my manuscript as well as coach me on my writing, including recommending several books to read and apply to my work. I spent the next year re-working my manuscript. I submitted to #Pitchwars and then to #PitMad, which led to a contract with Clean Reads. I am overjoyed to be a published author as of November 2018. A writer’s journey can be lonely, but I had a lot of help along the way.

Your story reminds us it truly takes years to get your first book out there. Thanks for encouraging us all to press on.

Now tell us about Gems of Fire.

My debut young adult fantasy is Gems of Fire, released Nov. 6, 2018. It’s about a princess overcoming fear and figuring out how she fits in her world.


Palace of Sunderland. Paradise to the peasants. Prison to sixteen-year-old Anna, daughter of the king. She can never escape the castle’s cold walls and scorning disapproval of her father and his brute royal counsel, Seamus. She’ll always live in the shadow of her late mother the queen. Will they ever see her for who she really is?

A riding accident lands Anna in the hands of traders who sell her as a slave in distant Kasdod to none-other than her father’s enemy, Lord Anwar. After overhearing a dangerous plot to conquer Sunderland and kill the royal family, Anna must escape and warn her father, even if it means facing her greatest enemy.

With the doom looming over her, Anna is approached by a dangerous-looking man in the dark. He claims to want to help her, but can she trust him with her secrets? The perils of the journey ahead will push Anna to the limit and answer the one question that has always plagued her. Will she ever be enough?

Anna’s adventures continue in the next book in the series, Valley of Bones, which I’m still writing. I’ve especially enjoyed plotting all three books and am excited to see where Anna’s journey has taken me.


Sounds exciting. Your cover is stunning.

 How did you research for your fanatasy world?

Part of Gems of Fire’s fantasy world is loosely based on a medieval European culture, but Morocco serves as the loose setting for the desert scenes. I also researched weapons, sword fighting, armor, moon phases, approximate distance one could travel in a day on horseback and other details. Though it’s set in a fantasy world, I wanted to the details to feel authentic.

I love when fantasy authors research real time things and add them to their stories.

What inspired you to write your book?

The inspiration to write has always percolated in the back of my mind. I was often plotting stories in my head. Specifically for Gems of Fire, when I transitioned from a working woman to stay-at-home mom, I sometimes felt like I was locked in Anna’s room with her. Though I loved being at home with my children, writing was a much-needed creative escape for me.

I can never answer this question without referencing not only Narnia, the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but others such as Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, the City of Ember, Graceling series, Throne of Glass series, and the incredible, wonderful Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima, which begins with The Demon King.

Writers write what they know as well as what they love. Clearly you love fantasy. As an avid reader of the genre you can craft a compelling story. Love it.

Do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you?

It’s hard to just have one favorite verse. Proverbs 3:5-6 is always a comfort, while Romans 8 continues to be one of my favorite chapters. A passage that resonated with me while revising Gems of Fire and now writing the next two in the series is Psalm 18:30-36.

If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing what would that be?

I would invest in a mentor early on. I had learned what I could about writing, but until someone sat down with me and showed me how to apply writing principles specifically to my own work, I got stuck at a certain level.

Who is your best support system to keep you focused on your writing?

Writers need to be self-starters, but we also need community. Right now, my community is mostly online, but I have been part of a writers’ group in the past.

What is your favorite genre to read for fun?

I almost always read young adult fantasy with romance subplots. Can’t get enough!

I am not surprised. 😊

 Where is your favorite place to write?

I enjoy writing in a quiet place, in view of nature. Our home backs to a small lake, so it’s a perfect setting. I’m not a coffee-shop writer because I get too distracted.

What a wonderful setting. Thanks so much for being with us today. Readers, continue scrolling to learn more about Diana and a chance to win a copy of Gems of Fire.



Don’t you just want to open this cover and read. Check out the order links below.


More about Diane:

Diane E. Samson is the author of Gems of Fire. She was lucky enough to grow up on acreage just north of Kansas City, Missouri, with horses and dogs in the backyard. When she wasn’t dreaming of Narnia, she was outside riding her horse, training her dog or spending time swimming at the lake. Her love of words led her to earn a degree in magazine journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She subsequently worked as a reporter, editor and in public relations. After moving around the country, she has returned to the Kansas City area where she lives with her husband, children and dog. She will never be without a golden retriever.

Visit Diane on social media:





Order Gems of Fire :

Amazon order link:

Barnes and Noble order link:


Diane is giving away an e-book or signed paperback version of Gems of Fire to one lucky winner. Sign up for her newsletter following the link below for a chance to win. Winners outside the US will be sent an e-book copy only.  Drawing will be December 15th.

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