Everlene’s Sky

How A Letter to a Sailor Ignited a Lifelong Friendship and a New Book

While serving in the Navy, aboard an aircraft carrrier in the Persian Gulf, Michael Russo received a letter from a stranger. That letter was the beginning of a lifelong friendship and the catalyst for his debut novel, Everlene’s Sky.


I interviewed Michael about his friendship with Everlene and the book he just launched, a novelization of her life story.

Here are some of the questions I posed to Michael:

  • Tell me about the first time Everlene made contact with you.
  • What propelled you to write back to her?
  • How did her correspondence impact you.
  • At what point did you start thinking, “Hey, this would make a great book”?
  • And when did you start writing it?
  • Prior to this, had you written for publication?
  • Describe your writing process.
  • How involved was Everlene in the process?
  • The title, Everlene’s Sky, comes from a quote from Everlene. Can you share that quote and why you used it for your book title?
  • Describe your publishing process.
  • How has the book been received so far?
  • What are you doing to help promote Everlene’s Sky?
  • What would you say to someone who’s in that place where you were–they have an interesting book idea and are at the beginning of the writing and publishing process. What have you learned that you can pass along?

Be sure to watch the 700 Club segment about Everlene Brewer and her unique ministry to U.S. service men and women.

You can connect with Michael Russo via Facebook or Twitter.


Have you had an encounter with a stranger that became a subject of your writing? Tell us about it.


beth_thompsonElizabeth M Thompson loves stories–fiction and nonfiction alike. Mostly, she loves God’s story and seeks to share with readers how they fit into it. When she’s not reading, writing, or serving the Inspire writers, she can be found along the American River, pedaling her bike, paddling a kayak or walking hand-in-hand with her husband Mike. Connect with Elizabeth on her blog, Facebook or Twitter. She loves to connect with other writers!

Self-Publish Like a Pro with Lara Van Hulzen

Most of us want to write books that makes a positive impression on our readers–maybe even a life-changing impression. In order to accomplish that, we need to ensure the books we write are published professionally, whether we publish through a traditional publisher or choose to self-publish. If you’ve ever considered self-publishing, you’ll want to learn how to self-publish like a pro.

I’m impressed with the way Inspire writer Lara Van Hulzen approaches self-publishing. Her books look and read like they’re traditionally published. So, I interviewed her about her self-publishing process to find out what she does. Here are the questions I asked her.

About Self-Publishing:

  • With so many publishing options, why did you choose the indie publishing route?
  • When did you decide to self-publish?
  • What was your first step?
  • Your book is very polished. Tell us about your editing process.
  • Did you do the formatting yourself or did you hire someone for that?
  • Your covers are gorgeous! How important is it to have a professionally-designed cover?
  • How did you find a great cover artist?
  • Your second book, Get to Me just released. What did you do differently with it?

About Marketing:

  • What steps are you taking to market your books? Are you working with a publicist or a launch team?
  • What have you learned about marketing since you started this publication journey?
  • You’ve received some great reviews on Amazon and other sites. What advice can you give writers seeking reviews of their self-published titles?
  • What has surprised you the most so far in your publishing journey?
  • Any last words of advice for writers who plan to self-publish?

RememberMegettome3If you’re in the Greater Sacramento area, be sure to stop by Face in a Book in El Dorado Hills on Saturday, April 25 from 4-6pm for a book launch and signing party.

You can find Lara at LaraMVanHulzen.com and sign up for her newsletter.


What questions do you have for Lara? Leave them in the comments for a chance to win a copy of either Remember Me or Get to Me. We’ll draw a winner on Friday, April 24th.

Sharing Your Painful Past with a Universal Audience

Many people have experienced God’s power, mercy, and redeeming grace in amazing ways. The Lord transforms lives as His people courageously testify about the things He’s done in and through their circumstances.

Sometimes, our sharing is done in an intimate setting. Sometimes, writers pour out their hearts in a book.

JaneThe Lord prepared Jane S. Daly to write Because of Grace from the moment doctors diagnosed her son with cancer, through the grieving process following his death, and in the refuge of His peace from which she shares her journey with others.

Please join me in welcoming Jane as she reminds writers that, no matter how large the audience, a personal testimony is a gift that can be life-changing when placed into the hands of our Almighty God.

Xochi: Thank you for sharing your testimony in your debut book, Because of Grace. Please share the keys to making a personal story relevant to universal audience.

Jane: There’s a saying, “No tears from the writer, no tears from the reader.” Being vulnerable is the most important part of telling your story. People want to know how you dealt with the bad stuff, and receive encouragement from you. Otherwise, it’s just preaching.

Xochi: What was the most challenging part of writing your personal story in a way that would be relevant to a universal audience?

Jane: The most challenging part, period, was reliving all those emotions. Anger, grief, denial, bitterness. Everyone experiences pain, and exposing that pain is where others can relate to your story.

BecauseofGraceXochi: How did you determine if your testimony should be shared through an article or blog post, a series of articles or blog posts, or a nonfiction book?

Jane: I began blogging when Bobby was first diagnosed. I wrote a couple of articles which I submitted for publication. An editor suggested I write a book about my journey, so I pulled much of the content from my journal, blog, and articles.

Xochi: Why is it important for writers to be emotionally and spiritually ready to share their painful past in such a permanent public form?

Jane: We need to know that our fellow Christians don’t have it all together. So often we put on our Sunday faces, and never let people know the painful things we’re going through. It’s encouraging when we find out how God is helping others who are suffering, too. For instance, I was asked to write an article about a woman who was kidnapped and raped. She appeared very together at church, and no one would have ever known about her ordeal. Because she chose to reveal it, other women were emboldened to come forward and receive healing.

Xochi: How can a writer tell if they’re ready to publish their story for a universal audience?

Jane: Critique groups, such as Inspire Christian Writers offers, are invaluable. We write in a vacuum, so having others read our work helps keep things in perspective. They catch grammar problems, continuity, and universal appeal. I LOVE my critique group ladies.

Xochi: If a writer feels ready to share their testimony in a book, what can they do to be better prepared for the process?

Jane: Know that it won’t be easy. Be prepared for tears. Be prepared to want to abandon the project. Be prepared for God to bring things up that you didn’t realize you still needed to deal with.

Xochi: Please share a final word of encouragement for writers who think they might be ready to share their painful past with a universal audience.

Jane: If you think you’re ready to write your story, gather a couple of people around you and ask for their prayers. Ask them if you can rely on them for encouragement when you want to give up. I started a Facebook group called “Fire Pit People.” We share our ups and downs, frustrations and temptations. We support each other, and occasionally virtually slap each other upside the head.

Xochi: Thank you for inspiring us to write with courage and transparency, Jane.


Celebrate the release of Because of Grace on Saturday, April 25th from 1-4pm at the Edgwood Clubhouse, 5700 Spyglass Lane, Citrus Heights. Come and get your signed copy, visit with the author and enjoy refreshments!

To connect with Jane, please visit her website, subscribe to her blog, or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. Please also take a moment to pray readers will experience hope and healing, like Jane, Because of Grace.


Xochi DixonWith a heart for loving God, loving people, and nurturing spiritual growth, Xochi (so-she) E. Dixon encourages and equips women to experience the fragrance of God’s presence through prayerful study and application of His Holy Word at www.xedixon.com.


The Benefits of Writing with a Focus Group: An Author Interview with Joanne Kraft

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Eccl. 4:9-10).


Joanne Kraft Author PhotoWriters who work the majority of their time in isolation can understand the value of community and relate to King Solomon’s words.

When writing a book, authors usually present their own ideas and support their information with Scripture and quotes from other books. However, some writers, like Joanne Kraft, have discovered the benefits of focus groups made up of people who fit their target audience.

Please help me welcome Joanne, as she celebrates the launch of The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids.

Xochi: Congratulations on your newest release, Joanne. Please tell us a little bit about The Mean Moms Guide.

Joanne:  Thanks so much for having me! The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids is my newest nonfiction parenting book. It encourages marshmallow moms (softies) to stay the course and keep loving boundaries—especially when parenting is hard.


Xochi: What are the benefits of working with the focus group as you write a nonfiction book?

Joanne:  When I signed my contract for The Mean Mom’s Guide I knew I’d need help. With a title like “mean mom”, well, I wanted to have a lot of support from other moms. I used my social media to ask women if they’d be interested in joining “The Mean Mom Team.” I wanted to gather moms and hear what they had to say about things like technology, entitlement and how to maneuver sibling rivalry.


Xochi: What are the greatest challenges in working with focus groups?

Joanne: For me, the toughest part was older moms weren’t as well represented as the younger moms in my focus group. Since I drew my focus group from social media, the older generation of moms (moms of adult kids) weren’t as interested in a parenting book as younger moms were.


Final Cover The Mean Moms Guider_editedXochi: Please describe the process required by publishers when using focus groups.

Joanne: Each publishing house is different. You’d have to contact your editor and see what they say, or refer back to your contract for that information.


Xochi: What, if anything, are authors expected to do for the members of their focus groups?

Joanne: The number one thing? Communicate. I made sure these moms knew the private group they were joining was for The Mean Mom’s Guide. They knew when I asked questions that their answers were part of my research and anything they shared might be used in my book. I made that clear. When my galley copies arrived I went back to my focus group numerous times and shared each mom’s quotes and let them know which chapters they’d be in.


Xochi: Why should nonfiction writers consider working with focus groups?

Joanne: I never thought I must have a “focus group.” It was an organic process the Lord made into something better than I’d ever imagined. These women have encouraged me so much this year. I pray for these women and want their faith to grow deeper, just as I would if I was facilitating a ministry face-to-face in church.


Xochi: In what ways did having a focus group benefit your writing process?

Joanne: The better you know your target audience the better chance at providing a solid manuscript/written resource. If you struggle to know who your audience is or what they’re all about, then a focus group for your next project might be a great benefit.


Xochi: What happens to the group after you complete your manuscript?

Joanne: The Mean Mom Team became so engaged with one another over the past year that when my book came out it was natural to offer them the chance to be a part of my book launch team. I’m using my same group space on Facebook to run my book launch.

We’ve been together for over a year now. They’re helping me get the word out about my book through social media. I’m also reading through the book with them. On Saturdays we have “Prayer & Praise” where we pray for one another and rejoice in the blessings they’ve experienced, too.

When the launch is over I’ll go back to using it for ministry with these women.


Xochi: Are there any circumstances where focus groups would not be helpful?

Joanne: If you’re a writer who struggles with criticism a focus group may not be for you. When you open the door wide for lots of people (who aren’t writers) to tell you what they think, a focus group may not be a good choice.


Xochi: Please offer our nonfiction writers a final word of encouragement.

Joanne: Inspire Christian Writers was one of my very first steps toward publication. The value of being around writers weekly is immeasurable. If you’re in an Inspire group—keep going. If you’re not in a group yet—find one. If you’re frustrated over edits—keep writing. If you’re discouraged about rejections—ask Inspire friends for prayer. Whatever you do, don’t give up. If God can use me He can use anyone.


Xochi: Thank you for joining us, Joanne. I’m looking forward to buying The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids as a gift for all the moms I love.


To connect with Joanne, please visit her website, “like” her Facebook Author Page, follow her on Twitter, and subscribe to her blog. And when you’re buying your copy of The Mean Moms Guide, please don’t forget to buy a copy for another mom who needs encouragement through biblical wisdom presented with delightful humor.

Would you like to read an excerpt of The Mean Mom’s Guide? Sign up for Joanne’s monthly Newsletter and she’ll provide an excerpt!


Xochi DixonWith a heart for loving God, loving people, and nurturing spiritual growth, Xochi (so-she) E. Dixon encourages and equips women to experience the fragrance of God’s presence through prayerful study and application of His Holy Word at www.xedixon.com.


Joanne Kraft Launches The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids

Today is launch day for Joanne Kraft’s second book, The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids. We had loads of fun talking about the book and her writing passion. Here’s the interview of our time together.


Elizabeth M. Thompson writes from her experiences as a Bible teacher, wife, mother and grief navigator. She enjoys speaking at writer’s conferences and women’s ministry events. Elizabeth serves on the Inspire Christian Writers Board. Her publication credits include articles published by Focus on the Family, Today’s Christian, and contributions to several compilations.


How to Blog Your Way to a Book Deal: An Interview with Allison K. Flexer

Anyone can start a blog, especially in this age of easily accessible technology and do-it-yourself websites. However, developing a marketable book idea that meets the needs of a specific target audience, crafting a publishable manuscript, and establishing a platform through blogging are much more complex and challenging processes.

Allison K. Flexer
 is an author, speaker, and blogger who is passionate about communicating the love of God to others.

She started blogging in 2008. In her debut book, Truth, Lies, and the Single Woman (Beacon Hill Press), Allison tells the story of her single journey and gives practical steps for letting go of the lies that destroy the joy and confidence of unmarried women.

A contributing writer for Devotional Ventures (Regal Books, 2006) and Fulfilled: The NIV Devotional Bible for the Single Woman (Zondervan, 2014), Allison joins Inspire Christian Writers to share how blogging led to her first book deal.

Allison, how did the blogging process prepare you for publication in online magazines, periodicals, and other book projects?

My writing skills improved as I blogged regularly. I’m not sure I realized it at the time, but the discipline of blogging taught me so much about the craft of writing.

Blogging opened a lot of doors for me. I met other writers/bloggers online who encouraged me to attend writers’ conferences. At those conferences, I met editors looking for submissions for smaller projects (devotions, take home papers, online articles, etc.) Anytime you can make a connection with an editor, submit according to guidelines, and receive an acceptance and publication of something you’ve written, it’s a huge confidence builder.

How did blogging contribute to the completion of your debut book?

Blogging taught me to organize my thoughts and follow through on ideas that came to mind. A blog is a great repository and online journal. Many times, while working on my book manuscript or writing for a compilation, I would go back to previous blog posts and use them as a launching pad for writing a devotional piece or chapter. All of my work was there for me to easily access (versus combing through written journals). I would have forgotten many of those stories, but blogging preserved them. It was amazing how many of the topics fit seamlessly into my manuscript.

How has blogging helped you interact with readers and grow your audience?

By looking at the popularity of posts, you learn what works for your readers and what doesn’t. My most popular blog post was a letter I wrote to my newborn niece the week she was born. You wouldn’t believe how many people Google “Letter to my Niece.” For a long time, my post was in the top three results on Google for that search term. Although that topic didn’t fit with my book project, thousands of people ended up reading a letter that contained Scripture and Truth from God’s word. We never know the reach our words may have.

As writers with a Christian worldview, we don’t ultimately do this for the money or the publishing credits. When we hear from a reader who was touched by our words, we know we’re on the right path.

Please share your top tips for successful blogging.

Pick a general theme for your blog and establish your brand. Decide who you want your audience to be. For example, I started my blog with a general theme of seeking God’s grace in everyday moments. My goal was to write inspirational or devotional material to help people see God in their daily lives. That doesn’t mean I can’t post a recipe or a book review occasionally, but it’s important to stick to a main theme and brand. Also, I recommend always including an image with every post (and ensuring you have the rights to that image). I use the website PicMonkey.com to edit my own photos and add text.

How have you increased traffic to your blog and nurtured interaction with your readers?

I regularly visit other blogs and comment on them. I ensure my blog’s web address is linked with my comment. I see a lot of visitors to my blog that originate from those comments I left on other blogs. Giveaways are another great way to increase traffic and get your readers to leave comments. If you read a great book that your blog readers would enjoy, consider reviewing the book and giving away your copy. Finally, Twitter has been instrumental in growing my audience. I find other ministries similar to mine and engage with their followers. Often, they will follow back and check out my blog, which is linked to my Twitter account. I find Twitter to be much more effective than Facebook for growing blog readership these days.

What final word of encouragement do you have for writers who are struggling with creating and maintaining a successful blog?

Look for inspiration in your daily life. Blog about something you’re currently struggling with. Readers aren’t necessarily looking for someone who has all the answers. They are looking for someone relatable. Be genuine and readers will be drawn to you.


Inspire Blog Readers, please join the conversation.

You can encourage Allison by signing up for her blog, following her on Twitter, and liking her Facebook Author page.


It’s your turn: What is your greatest challenge regarding your blog?

What have you done to make your blog a positive experience for you and your readers?  

Xochi (so-she) E. Dixon is a writer, speaker and Bible teacher. She encourages and equips women to embrace a lifelong commitment to total surrender and trust God through all circumstances. Her work has been published in The Upper Room, ENCOUNTER—The Magazine, Devo‘Zine, Inspire Victory, and at www.xedixon.com.

Kingdom News Interview

Inspire Christian Writer’s leader, Beth Thompson was recently interviewed by Kingdom News’ Tony Bosserman on KFIA about Inspire and our 2014 Write to Inspire Conference, The Art of Writing. Below is a snippet of that interview along with the spot currently running on KFIA and 103.9 The Fish.

Please share with anyone you think would be interested in learning more about this event.



2014 Write to Inspire Conference: Steve Scott Interview

The 2014 Write to Inspire Conference is just days away and I’m excited about the five wonderful speakers who will teach at this year’s event. You’ve met Bill MyersManuel Luz and Lyn Lasneski through their interviews. Today, I’m introducing you to Steve Scott. Steve is an author, speaker and mixed media artist. He was instrumental in the founding of Inspire Christian Writers. I hope to share that story with you at the conference. For today, I’ll let you get to know him through the interview below. Here are some of the questions I asked. Watch the video to hear what he had to say in response:

  • What is C.A.N.A. (Christian Artists Networking Association) and how did you get involved in it?
  • In your topic for the conference you include the term Post-Secularism. Can you please define this term? What does it mean for today’s writers?
  • You plan to encourage writers to unplug and connect. What should we unplug from and connect to?
  • You’re using the Gospel of John in your teaching. Can you give us a little taste of what we’ll be learning?
  • What impact will your teaching have on the writers who attend the conference? What will be their take-away?  

Registration is now open. Click for more details or to secure your place at the 2014 Write to Inspire Conference. 

2014 Write to Inspire Conference: Bill Myers Video Interview

Beth Thompson takes a moment to video interview Bill Myers, keynote speaker for the 2014 Write to Inspire Conference on October 3-4, 2014. Some of the topics they discuss in the interview:

  • How Bill went from being a Dental Student to a Best Selling Author and Filmmaker.
  • What would happen if writer’s started saying “Yes” to God?
  • With over 150 books and numerous films to his name, how does Bill account for being so productive and fruitful?
  • What is God’s role in Bill’s creative work and how can writer’s engage deeper with God within the creative process? 
  • At the conference, Bill will be speaking on the “Five Steps of the Writing Process”. Bill discusses what writers can expect to learn and what they might do differently after hearing him teach?
  • What is the writer’s responsibility in response to the call to write? 
  • How has mentoring High School and College aged students impacted his writing?
  • What do the writers need to know before they attend the conference?


For more information on the conference and to register, go to the 2014 Write to Inspire Conference page.




2014 Write to Inspire Conference: Lyn Lasneski Interview

Are you ready to discover how to awaken the creative genius inside? Meet the “Genius Whisperer,” Lyn Lasneski, an award-winning artist, pilot, and trainer. An extraordinary woman who has dedicated her life to helping writers and other creatives unlock their potential, Lyn is one of the featured speakers at the upcoming Inspire Christian Writers conference Oct 3-4, 2014.

Here are a few key ideas Lyn shared in our video interview:

  • Your everyday experiences can make you a better writer. Lyn explains how becoming a pilot helped her become a better painter.
  • Building awareness of the world around you is crucial to becoming a better writer.
  • Developing personal creative rituals is essential to getting started.
  • Why you need to create your own personal creative space.
  • How to define success, and when it’s “okay” to call yourself a writer.

Lyn Lasneski has been lovingly dubbed ‘the Genius Whisperer’ by her students. Art and adventure define her. She earned an Art’s degree in Wyoming tpilot and Certified Flight Instructor (CFII and MEII), and enjoyed flying tourists around Mt. Denali for several years.

During her 10 years in Alaska she devoted herself to researching the thinking habits of history’s greatest geniuses, from Leonardo DaVinci to Tesla and Feynman. She also taught herself to paint at that time–something she didn’t learn while pursuing her Art’s degree. However, it’s Lyn’s ardor to awaken the creative genius in every individual, that burns most bright. Her personal genius is teaching and training, and has been doing so for over 30 years. Her repertoire includes teaching others to fly airplanes, how to draw and paint with excellence, dance, visual thinking, and how to access their personal genius. She ignites imaginations through creativity boot camps, art workshops and creative thinking schools for business and innovation.

An accomplished national award-winning artist, Lyn has earned a drapery of accolades including “Best of Show,” “People’s Choice,” “Private Collections,” and entry and other awards in the National Oil Painter’s of America Show (a prestigious event that admits only 160 out of 4,000 annual entries.) Her artwork has shown in galleries in Arizona, California, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Hawaii.

Trained as one of Les Brown’s Platinum speakers, she speaks with authenticity and joy. Lyn’s curriculum is used by multiple Universities and Schools for all their students. Lyn imbues the energy of her experience into painting and into hearts and minds through teaching at workshops, conferences, speaking engagements, and her upcoming book. An artist who inspires the best in her students, Lyn believes creativity and genius are every person’s birthright.

Lyn Lasneski, painter, speaker & author, will teach us:
How to See Like an Artist

Click HERE for more information on the 2014 Write to Inspire Christian Writers Conference.

Susy Flory is a New York Times bestselling writer. Find out more about Susy at www.susyflory.com.