What material did you acquire?

by Karen Foster

According to author Willa Cather, “Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.”

Her words hit home with me. I was six years old when I first became enamored with Jesus. Six years later, I asked Him into my heart when I understood that I needed a Savior. As a child, I’d pretend to be a missionary nurse and explain the Gospel to my dolls. When I was fifteen, I wrote a fiction story (which filled three spiral notebooks) based on a missionary nurse in Africa. Alas, I never became a nurse or a missionary. However, sharing the Gospel and talking about Jesus never waned. And that “material, acquired before the age of fifteen,” defines me as an author.

44598687 - children reading books at park against trees and meadow in the parkThe theme of God’s love, grace, and faithfulness revealed in ordinary people’s lives is what I write about on my blog, devotions, first-person stories. If I wrote fiction, I’d incorporate the same theme. I’ve tried to think “outside my box” and daydream about writing the next great American novel. But I always return to the subject…nay, the object of my affection…Christ Jesus.

Granted, some days I question why I’m writing. Wonder if my words make a difference. I grumble that it’d be easier if I pursued a career as a concert pianist even though I don’t play the piano. But then I read the Bible. Or someone tells me about God’s transforming power in their lives—and I’m hooked. Heart ignites. Fingers start typing. Joy trickles along my spine.

Someone asked me, “Why don’t you write a secular novel which translates to the movie screen instead of writing for Christians magazines?” The person implied I’d never earn money or fame. Great point if those were the carrots that compelled me to write. That’s why I’m thankful for Inspire Christian Writers. “They exists to provide a network of support, encouragement, education, and spiritual growth for Christian writers.” I joined years ago and can attest I wouldn’t be the dedicated writer I am today without their positive, godly influence.

What defines you as a writer? Can you trace your subject or themes to your youth?

karen fosterKaren Foster has been published multiple times in Christian magazines such as The Upper, The Secret Place, Bible Advocate’s ezine: Now What?, MomSense, Fulfill, and Discipleship Journal. Her  stories have also appeared in five Inspire Anthologies. She blogs at KarenFosterMinistry.com and is a guest blogger for ThinWithin.org.


Voice, Houses, and Other Fun Stuff

Saturday, November 12, Inspire Christian Writers held its quarterly workshop. After a fun mixer, we had two breakout sessions. I attended the Advanced Writer Workshop with Kathy Boyd Fellure. She described her voice as lyrical. She read from her recently completed novel, which takes place in Lake Tahoe. She ascribed physical and emotional attributes to the lake, and took us through an exercise to do the same thing with a house.

Several years ago, actor Kevin Kline made a movie called Life as a House. It was a beautiful story of family restoration through rebuilding a crumbling, decrepit shack into a gorgeous home. I was reminded of the movie when my fellow writer, and sister, Mary Allen, shared what she’d written during Kathy’s workshop. I am excited to share it with you.

Life as a House

By: Mary A. Allen

When I was new and fresh and all my friends and I gleamed with fresh paint and were surrounded by bright green lawns, I seemed to be the happiest. I loved to hear the sounds of children laughing and playing kickball in the street. Neighborhood dogs ran with the children. My door was never locked.

My windows are now heavy with bars. My door is laden with locks. My lawn has dried up over the years and eventually disappeared altogether.

I’m worn out, my face is grey. My welcoming appearance has melted into frightening. I cringe when people step on my stairs. I cry onto my floors when it rains.

The neighborhood is quiet now, except for the frequent police raids. We’re all ashamed when we have our secrets revealed.

Kathy encouraged us to keep searching and praying until we find our voice. It’s apparent that Mary’s voice is also lyrical.

The following is a quote from author Donald Mass:

“What the heck is “voice”? By this, do editors mean “style”? I do not think so. By voice, I think they mean not only a unique way of putting words together, but a unique sensibility, a distinctive way of looking at the world, an outlook that enriches an author’s oeuvre. They want to read an author who is like no other. An original. A standout. A voice.”

What’s your unique way of looking at the world?joy of the lord

Do you write straightforward, no frills, little description? Do you use cultural or artistic references in your writing? Do you like tension-building scenes, as in a mystery novel?

Next time we’ll look at how to find your unique voice – what Kathy Fellure says is as unique as your fingerprints.

Let me know what you think YOUR voice is.

Jane Daly is the author of two books, Because of Grace (2015) and The Caregiving Season (2016). She can be reached through her website www.janeSdaly.com. She is also the treasurer of Inspire Christian Writers and West Coast Christian Writers.

My Creative Journey

by Erin Bambery-Veliquette

“You’re a writer you know.” My friend announced this on our drive to an Inspire workshop.

“What makes you say that? I’ve painted murals for thirteen years. I’m not a writer.”

“You do writer’s things. Journal, jot notes, and tell stories in conversation.”

Our featured speaker grabbed my attention—God has already written your stories with your life’s events…Use a truth slant if you wish—change the details…record the stories He has given you! Memories flashed through my mind. The writer’s call roared, and I was stunned.

38758035 - child look at sea behind the wall, vacation conceptAfterward, God graciously equipped me with important writer’s tools. I joined Inspire Christian Writers and a critique group which encourages attention to deadlines, submission of stories to publishers, and contest participation. This group is my favorite tool for refining word craft, feedback, and accountability. Members urged me to find a group for children’s books.

I joined the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, http://www.scbwi.org then won a contest for a free critique of my manuscript. I entered an illustration contest onsite. The winner’s art receives access to publishers and agents.

At my first writer’s conference, I scheduled fifteen-minute appointments with editors, publishers, and faculty—vital for connections, feedback, and possible publication contracts. An acquisitions editor requested my portfolio and entered it into her network base. A freelance writer urged, “Pitch, pitch, pitch!”

My first story, Meaghan O’Meara’s Prayer Bowl, was published in Inspire’s Forgiveness. A second, Don’t Bypass Joy, My Love, will appear in Inspire’s Joy.

New to this industry, I’ve discovered success sprouts from creativity, practice, feedback, and marketing. Pitch the story, write a query letter, and learn good etiquette with publishers and editors. Blogs and social media create an individual’s “brand”—a personal identifier.

Expect a valuable experience behind the doors of opportunity God presents. Events are not limited to what we see. My years of design and mural creation for my clients provides me a chance in book illustration. God often connects our past choices to future outcomes which reveal a larger picture. Write and submit, then watch God’s creative power in action.

Erin Bambery-Veliquette writer and artist, is published in the Inspire Writers Forgiveness Anthology. Meaghan O’Meara’s Bowl. Erin lived abroad and traveled extensively. She painted wall murals for several years and illustrated the successful first edition of, Little Known Tales in California History.



What If…

How do you come up with your ideas?

I recently shared lunch with a dear writing friend. The talk turned to our works in progress.

“How do you come up with your ideas?” she asked.

I have no problem coming up with ideas. My mind is constantly running amuck. Many writers are not as fortunate. So where do ideas come from? Here are a couple of things you can do generate ideas, or take the beginnings you have to a new depth.

What If…

I15384997 - what if 3d text surrounded by question marks. part of a series.n Conflict & Suspense by James Scott Bell, he talks about playing the “What if…” game. Take any event, anywhere you are, any thing you are doing and ask, What if. My friend and I did this as we sat looking out the window of the restaurant.

·      What if one of the cars out there on the street is carrying a cache of weapons on the way to an old employer’s office?

·      What if someone put a bomb in one of the cars?

·      What if there was a man on the way to break up with his fiancé?

·      What if one car was full of balloons and supplies to set up for a surprise party?

·      What if someone was driving their newborn home from the hospital?

·      What if a scientist had a time machine that was jostled by a pothole, and triggered so he drove his car in to 1385?

James Scott Bell talked about seeing a billboard of a woman getting sunscreen put on her legs. Here are some of his what ifs:

·      What if the man applying the lotion was sent to assassinate her, but he’s fallen in love?

·      What if they are having an affair?

·      What if it isn’t lotion but something that will turn her into a half woman/half squid?


What if is a lot of fun and can generate many possible plot lines to play with later.


Make it worse

This comes from a class another great writing friend took from Donald Maass author of Writing the Breakout Novel. You have the beginning of an idea. How can you build on it, and take it from an idea to a full novel?

Go back to the what if about the man driving to break up with his girlfriend.

·      Make it worse.

He has a terminal illness and doesn’t want to leave her as a widow before their first anniversary.

·      Make it worse.

After he as crushed her with the break up, he realizes how very much he needs her, but there is no going back.

·      Make it worse.

He is abducted by an alien life form who cures him so he can save their planet from destruction.

·      Make it worse.

In order to save the planet he has to battle a creature, save a princess, and marry her. But he still loves the woman he left behind on earth.

These are some fun ways to get the creative juices flowing. Have fun. Play alone or get some writing friends together and play as a group. There will be no end to the possibilities and your “To be Written” file may soon be larger than mine.

What if …

We all had too many stories to complete for God’s glory to keep working at anything but writing?

Michelle Janene Murray blissfully exists in the medieval creations of her mind most days. She published Mission: Mistaken Identity in 2015, helps edit the Inspire anthologies, and is working to expand her personal press to publish other authors.

What’s In A Name?

Creating the right name for every character

‘A rose by any other name, may smell as sweet,’ but what about our characters? Are all names the same? Can they be interchanged and still carry the same meaning and impact? Does a Fred give the reader the same impression as an Alfred? What kind of person do you picture with the name Marci, how about Mariamne, or Mary, or Meraera, or Malith?

Names have power in our stories. But how do we create the right name for every character?

When I first started writing, I bought a baby name book. When I created a new character I’d pick a letter I wanted the name to start with and then go through the pages looking at meanings and spelling variations until I found something to suit my character.

As time passed and I roamed the web more, I discovered a plethora of sites to find names. Most baby or new mom sites have a dedicated page for names. But I took my naming to the next level by choosing a name based on its meaning. Sites like the following are a small list of possibilities for search by the meaning.

name generatorIf you don’t want to waste hours on the net and have Scrivener, there is a name generator built in. You can to pick a name based on gender and nationality. (Edit > Writing Tools > Name Generator > )






I have also found some apps I enjoy: (these are free for Android, but they might be found for Apple as well—or something similar)

  • Name Generator
  • Fake Name Generator is fun. It will give you a name: First and last, along with an address, occupation, fake SSN, and a long list of other stats.

fake name generator

Since I write most of my books with a medieval feel, I have several sites bookmarked for Old English names. Here are some of my favorites.

I have also looked for names popular in the old west. More recently I Googled ‘most popular names in 19—’. When you know the age of your character you can get a feel for the names many parents were giving their children the same year as your character was born.

Here is another free app for fantasy names

  • Fantasy Name Generator. This one has an extensive list of possible fantasy characters to choose from, including: hobbits, elves, angels, dragon, dwarves, and a host of others.

By far, one of my favorite new finds as a fantasy writer is Donjon. You can create an entire world with this site. Each of the names below is link within site that leads to worlds of possibilities. You can name your characters, your world, and the locations in your world. There are occupations, population stats, maps, and diagrams. A person could spend days on this site—and never get a word written.


  • Fantasy Name Generator
  • Random Generator
  • Fantasy Calendar Generator
  • Fantasy World Generator
  • Medieval Demographics Calculator
  • Random Adventure Generator
  • Random Dungeon Generator
  • Random Inn Generator

Do you have any tried and true ways of naming characters? Share your insights and happy naming.

Michelle Janene Murray blissfully exists in the medieval creations of her mind most days. She published Mission: Mistaken Identity in 2015, helps edit the Inspire anthologies, and is working to expand her personal press to publish other authors.