Who We Are

Our Mission is to support fiction-writing Christians in their quest to be published and multi-published. We understand a writer’s need to be perseverant in obedience to God’s Calling. We support the hobbyist “going pro,” and encourage the published writer in continuing with and growing in her professional writing career.

Our Values encompass group support of the Great Commission, and, in that vein, we teach our participants to reflect the Biblical worldview throughout their work. Our deepest desire and heartfelt prayer is that every word we pen will inspire others to seek and find His path–His Way.

Our Vision foresees Christian writers being held in high esteem and their excellence being a powerful witness for Christ.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Uncle Jerry’s Jokes

You have to adapt
Q: How does a one-armed man tie his shoe?
A: Single-handedly.

Maybe she needs a Valium
Q: What sits on the bottom of the ocean and twitches?
A: A nervous wreck

Making it harder than it needs to be
Did you hear about the man who loved the sound of the clapping together of two coconut shells? He wanted to reproduce the sound, but he didn’t have two coconut shells. So, he grabbed his neighbor’s horse and led him along the town’s only cobblestone street. See? You can figure anything out if you put your mind to it.

A man has questions, a wallet has answers
I, Uncle Jerry, love my wife and children: Wanda, little Joey and little Marta. I keep a wallet in my pocket, with our family photo in it whenever I go to work at the Martian salt mines. Life here on Mars is expensive, so whenever I get stressed and ask myself, “where is the money going?” I open my wallet and see the reason it is empty—Wanda, little Joey and little Marta!

Flattery will always work
Q: What did one pencil say to the other pencil?
A: Looking sharp!

Posted in Jokes | Leave a comment

The Hidden Hand of God: Always Working Behind the Scenes

By Denise Miller Holmes

A few weeks ago, hubby and I got a surprise!

The surprise occurred over something small, yet it was clear the hand of God was involved, and it blessed us so much.

We’d ordered a fancy microwave from an Amazon seller. When the microwave came, it was a cheaper model. Disappointed and expecting to fight it out with the seller, we contacted him. But, he asked us to do something we thought was odd, so we contacted Amazon and told them what had happened.

Amazon contacted the seller and wham, we got a full refund for the absent fancy microwave.

Then came the hard part—what do we do with the one that was sent to us? It was not the upscale one we ordered, but it wasn’t a cheap one either. The seller said he did not send it. We asked Amazon the same thing. They said they didn’t send it either, so keep it.

Hubby’s name and our address were on the box, so someone sent it. Soooooo…we kept it! Yay! When a free microwave falls from the sky, you receive it and thank God for it.

What this experience showed me is that God surprises us with blessings even when we aren’t in dire need. He simply wants to please us.

And surely, every time I heat up my Smart Ones, Santa Fe Rice and Beans, I smile.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. – James 1:17

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. Nor will they lack fancy cooking devices.
– Ps 37:25 (The Very, Very, Very Paraphrased Bible)

Posted in Devotion, Encouragement, Inspirational | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Slow and Steady Technique for Writers

by Denise Miller Holmes

Photo by Cedric Fox on Unsplash

In last month’s SWAS Encouraging Note, I introduced the concept of reaching a goal slowly.

I kept it general, for whatever goals you were setting. But in this article, I’m going to apply it to writing.

For instance, I know that the expectations for writing a blog and other social media posts are to post daily. That’s what the pundits say—post daily.

There are Influencers on YouTube who say they are on every social media platform you can think of, and they say they post all kinds of content daily! Of course, these superpeople also produce their core product consistently, too.

I used to believe them—that they personally posted all the time—but then I really listened to what they said. Every now and then they’d mention “assistants.”

Aha! The light dawned. While these social media mavens expected us hoi polloi to work until our fingers bled marketing our stuff, they were assigning all the same tasks to assistants!

I don’t have the money to hire or even rent those things, so I went the other way—I posted less often.

That means while everyone else was crying and exhausted because they obeyed the daily mandate. I turned down the heat and only posted weekly, or even twice monthly.

It was odd, but after a while, I looked at all my posted articles and was bowled over by the amount of content I had. And I had ample comments from people who liked my work—both on the blog site and on Facebook. People were engaged.

After taking a long break from teaching and writing, when I returned to the publishing world, I took the slow-and-steady method and applied it to everything, plus a twist. I formulated a newsletter (the one you’re reading) and brainstormed the schedule and the pace of writing I wanted. I came up with a newsletter that I issued every other month, with eight short pieces. That way, all I had to do is write one short piece a week. No pressure!

After I read an expert’s book and found out that once-a-month was the least you should bring out a newsletter because your audience tends to forget you if you connect less often, I added an “encouraging note” on the off months. There are only two, quick items in that note. Again, something I can do fast and easily.

After seeing how satisfying producing the SWAS newsletter was, I decided to revive my blogs. Instead of writing completely new blog posts, I am recycling the newsletter articles. I post one a week on each platform. This way, I have content on every media platform I’m engaged in (and I know that the blogs have a different audience than the newsletter subscribers) so I’m widening my audience.

I tell you this to inspire you to rebel against the platform demands that make you feel as if something is sucking your soul. You can build your content slowly and steadily.  I promise you, none of this overtaxes me, and Google has never called to berate me for not posting daily on my blogs.

I know it all seems daunting, but if you feel the pace is too intense, adjust the dial to slow. When you choose that speed, it will be important to be consistent. The axiom is “slow and steady wins the race.” So, steady is a necessary ingredient.

Just remember, it’s your life. No one will die if you get out of the fast lane. Besides, aren’t the members of your audience busy? Don’t they have a daily blog to write? Ha!

As a summary, slow and steady is as good, maybe better, than fast. Don’t worry that your audience will die if you aren’t putting pedal to the metal—if you post often enough (or publish a book, or send out a newsletter), you will still keep connection. Just keep it consistent and everyone stays happy.

‘Nuff said.

(I think you’d like my bi-monthly newsletter: Success With a Smile Newsletter. Click here to sign up.)

Posted in Success and Self-Improvement, Writer Insight | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wisdom from the Founding Fathers

by Denise Miller Holmes

Fools Should be Quiet
“The learned fool writes his nonsense in better languages than the unlearned, but still it is nonsense.” — Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac

Counting is the Best Medicine
“When angry, count to ten before you speak; if very angry, a hundred.” — Thomas Jefferson

It’s Lonely at the Moral Top
“Always stand on principle . . . even if you stand alone.” — John Quincy Adams, who fought for the term “unalienable rights” to be written into the Declaration of Independence, even though he stood alone. 😀

Several Opinions Take you to Success
“In a multitude of counselors, there is the best chance for honesty, if not of wisdom.” — James Madison

What Motivates You?
“Three things prompt men to a regular discharge of their duty in time of Action: natural bravery, hope of reward, and fear of punishment.” — George Washington

Posted in Wisdom Sayings | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Influence: A Key Component of Success

By Denise Miller Holmes

The ability to influence people’s beliefs and actions is absolutely a powerful component of success. And, the example of Founding Father Samuel Adams (second cousin to Founding Father John Quincy Adams), and bold citizen of the colony of Massachusetts, shows us certain smart tools he used to convince the Royal Governor to remove two regimens of British soldiers from Boston.

Let’s look at the incident that Sam Adams responded to in order to make profound change—the Boston Massacre. Then, we’ll analyze the tools he used to influence the Elite’s decision-making.

In 1770, a British soldier accidentally discharged his musket into a Boston crowd. A melee ensued, and after the confusion ended, five people were found dead. This crisis gave Sam Adams all he needed to push for change and actually be heard.

The publicity of this “massacre” went all over the colonies and filled the local Boston papers. Soon after, there was a throng of three thousand protestors who gathered around an old Boston church. The protesters insisted that both regimens of British soldiers leave Boston.

The problem was that the Royal Governor—Thomas Hutchinson—was in favor of keeping the Brits in control of Massachusetts. So, there was little hope of relieving Boston of oppression.

However, Adams, a local congressman, saw his opportunity to make change. First, as soon as the fallout from the Boston Massacre was clear, he began gathering petition signatures in order to convince the governor to expel the Brits.

During the three-thousand-strong protest, Adams asked for an audience with Governor Hutchinson and got it. When Adams delivered the petition, he verbally requested that the regimens be removed, then said this:  

I am in fashion and out of fashion, as the whim goes. I will stand alone. I will oppose this tyranny at the threshold, though the fabric of liberty fall, and I perish in its ruins!

I only understood about half of that quote, but let’s just say it was similar to Patrick Henry’s, “Give me liberty or give me death!”

Now let’s take a looksee at why Hutchinson figured out his goose was cooked and agreed to expel the British from Boston. You might be surprised to find out it was tools and techniques that saved the day. These strategies are still viable in modern times, so pay attention:

  1. Excellent Communications and Persuasion Skills
    Adams was known in Boston as the owner of the newspaper, The Independent Advertiser, and as a skilled writer. He persuaded with opinion pieces that addressed the angst of the day and exposed the actions of the Crown in America.
    The people of Boston also knew him as a persuasive orator, who could give an engaging speech. Perhaps that was because he was a local congressman and was practiced in debate and persuasion. (I will suggest some books at the end of this article that will teach these skills.)
  2. Social Proof
    Adams used the Social Proof principle to overwhelm resistance. He struck his verbal blow with three thousand protestors outside, and a signed petition with substantial enough numbers that the governor could not ignore the fact that he must act.
  3. Passion
    Adams’s speech to the governor has been described as impassioned. His statement that he was immovable and would stand against the British occupation, no matter who disagreed with him, increased his influence over people’s thoughts and actions. It’s difficult to walk away from people who are boldly passionate. You tend to want to stand with them. It wasn’t only his verbal skills that were impassioned, his actions were also fervent. He struck when the iron was white-hot. Perfect timing!
    Passion fuels the flame of any message and a little goes a long way. Use it, but use it wisely.
  4. Act During a Crisis
    This is another tool that must be used carefully. You’ve heard the axiom, “Never let a crisis go to waste,” attributed to Winston Churchill. This is the axiom that Adams used intelligently.
    The Boston Massacre and the subsequent protest of three thousand were the crises he needed to open the ears of the powerful. (To be clear, there is no evidence of a riot at the protest site, only a protest!)
    An activist must be self-disciplined to use this tool and know how to aim it at the problem. Adams knew persuasion and oratory before the crisis, so it was not a high learning curve to act while the iron was hot.
    A note of caution: there are the unscrupulous out there that will create a crisis to get what they want, even if it causes death. Oh so naughty. Don’t do that!

Before you despair with an I-can’t-do-what-Sam-Adams-did attitude, remember that these tools and techniques are skills you can learn. I learned about Social Proof from the book called Influence by Robert B. Cialdini. He has six other tools besides Social Proof to use to persuade others. Powerful book!

I have a cool book called Writing to Persuade: How to Bring People Over to Your Side, by Trish Hall, and a great book on public speaking, Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln, by James C. Humes.

So, let go of the tired “I can’t” belief. Successful people know this stuff. They had to learn it. You can too. And when you do, be prepared for a self-image boost. When you hear yourself thinking “I can”, you’ll know your new knowledge is giving you confidence. As Martha Stewart says, “That’s a good thing!”

Historical Note: Thomas Jefferson defended the soldiers who (accidentally) started the Massacre. They were found “not guilty.

Posted in Marketing Instruction, Success and Self-Improvement | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Writer Thomas Jefferson and His Penchant to Work in His Pajamas

By Denise Miller Holmes, Director

Thomas Jefferson Pajamas

Okay, almost all of us writers know the delight of staying in our pajamas while we create at our laptops. Thomas Jefferson, sans laptop, had the same joy—to people’s chagrin.

I confess, I work in what I sleep in. Sometimes, I wear no pants. (TMI!)

So, when I read in the book, The Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents, by Cormac O’Brien, that Thomas Jefferson worked in his pajamas when he was president, I felt a kinship.

Writers commonly work in their nightwear, or other types of comfy clothing such as velour running suits, or boxers and t-shirts, or coffee-stained robes. You get the idea.

What is even funnier, Jefferson, while president, actually entertained dignitaries in his p.j.’s. He’d answer the door in them, invite the ambassador in for coffee, and act like this was all perfectly normal. These people had appointments, so, it wasn’t a mistake—he just didn’t care!

But let’s learn from Jefferson. Because the dignitaries saw meeting them in his pajamas as an insult and a profound act of disrespect, let’s put our pants on when the doorbell rings, okay? Or perhaps, a top hat.

Posted in Habits | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Believe in God, Believe in Yourself – You Don’t Suck

By Denise Miller Holmes

Please remember that whatever frustrations you may be experiencing now, God is with you. I am with you. YOU ARE CAPABLE.

In times of struggle, we are so tempted to say to ourselves, “I suck.”  I know, it’s what I used to say to myself, and still do when I’m in a particularly sticky situation.

But God created you as Competent. 

What does that mean? It means that, no matter what, you are capable of learning new skills. You are capable of improving. And, you are capable of persevering.

Embracing this as a belief is necessary if you are to overcome your current frustrations. God did not make you stupid. He made you Competent to learn and grow and overcome. 
Muhammad Ali said this best. “It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.”

Believe in God’s call. Believe in how He made you. Believe in yourself. It’s all good, baby!

Now, let’s face those challenges with joy in our bellies.

Posted in Encouragement | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Flash Fiction — The Swap

By Denise Miller Holmes, Director

It’s amazing how one piece of mail can change a life and cause great embarrassment at the same time.

When I read the invitation to the Grand Opening of Evan’s used-car dealership, relief flooded my body.  Here’s your chance, I told myself. This is the perfect time to say, “sorry.”

I’d met Evan a few years back when I was twenty-two, and we dated a few times before I left for a job in another state.

The entire four years I was away, I tortured myself about how I’d treated him at the end, just before I left. I don’t remember what the fight was about, but I yelled mean things at him and told him I never wanted to see him again. It was an intense outburst that gave me a pain in my gut and heat in my cheeks whenever I thought of it. I’d thrown every insult my father had taught me at Evan, including, “You kiss your mother with that mouth?” — which made no sense.

But, God has a way of bringing painful things back in order to heal us, and the invite was my opportunity to make it right. I needed to make this right.

I wanted to do something more than show up at the opening of his new location. I wanted Evan to remember that I’d come to the party, and, especially that I was nice to him—that the animosity was gone. So, I pulled into Aunt Flo’s Floral for something special.

I picked out a dynamic arrangement of bold-colored flowers and signed the card. ”Congratulations . . . .” blah, blah, blah and signed it “Clarice.”

At the last minute, I decided to have them deliver it rather than haul them in myself. The nice man smiled at me and promised to get them there early that day when the celebration would be starting.

I arrived about thirty minutes after the doors opened and saw an exquisite carved wood table with flower arrangements and cards covering the entirety of it. My flowers were there, in the center, with an envelope attached to them—an envelope entirely the wrong color.

Because I’d picked a blue envelope and this one was pink, confusion swirled around for a bit. But, before I could check out the card, sweet Evan came up to me and took, not shook, my hand. He held it there for a full four seconds (I counted) and then gently let it go.

After a few minutes of chatting, I pointed to my flowers and said they were from me. He walked over, to my chagrin, and snapped up the card. As he read it, I got an understanding of how bad the message must be because his face paled and he swallowed hard. “What is this?” he yelled, throwing the card onto the floor. “Do you want me dead, Clarice? Can’t you let this go?” He stormed off.

Certainly, this was more than him not liking pink envelopes. I picked up the card and read, “Rest in peace.” It was signed “C.” 

My first thought was, Oh how annoying it is that so many lazy people abbreviate everything. My second thought was, Oh gawd. How will I ever explain this and win his trust?

I called the florist and gave them a piece of my mind. They apologized exuberantly, then explained what it was like for the people who received my card.

“Where did it go?” I said, thinking someone else’s pain might be more than my own.

“Well,” he hesitated and sighed. “Imagine how the grieving family of Herbert Kunkel felt when they read your note out loud at the funeral reception, and it said, “Congratulations on your new location.”

Evan was in another room, engaging his guests, and I figured he needed time to cool off. I went home and poured myself a full glass of sugary drink. By then, it was early evening. God, please help Evan believe me.

I didn’t finish the prayer because my doorbell rang and startled me. I opened the door to see a small bouquet of forget-me-nots in an arrangement with baby’s breath. I brought them inside and read the card. It said, “I think there was a mix-up at the florist’s and you don’t want me dead. Let’s both pray about it, then go get a coffee. Call me. Is six a.m. okay?”

I ruminated a bit over the turn of events as I sipped my cola. It didn’t take long to decide. With God (and coffee), anything was possible.  

Posted in Fiction | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What fiction writers of all skill levels should do to improve and go from good to great!

by Denise Miller Holmes, Director

I’ve already talked about striving for excellence and continuing to improve your skills. This is the way to success.

But, many fiction writers do not know the areas of fiction writing that will keep them on the road to improvement. As far as the actual writing goes, there are these lovely things called “The Elements of Fiction.”

If you search for these elements online, you’ll find that every pundit has a different number of elements (some say three, some say six, etc.). But I’ve settled on twelve elements after some research. I believe these twelve are necessary tools to further your improvement in fiction writing.

So, here are the famous Twelve Elements of Fiction, as I have labeled them.
1.     Structure
2.     Character
3.     Plot
4.     Description
5.     Viewpoint
6.     Setting
7.     Scene
8.     Voice
9.     Dialogue
10.   Action
11.   Style
12.   Theme

The idea is to keep studying these elements and practice, practice, practice. You will be amazed at how good your fiction gets when you do this. 

Also, I suggest reading the Elements of Fiction Writing series by Writer’s Digest. But this series should not be your only source. There are many good books that will take you even further down the improvement road.

Posted in Success and Self-Improvement, Writing Instruction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Uncle Jerry’s Jokes

I am happy to give you another installment of Uncle Jerry’s Jokes. He is still diligently archiving every joke and funny story he runs across as he trudges down the salt-mining tunnels of Mars. I am right now crossing my fingers that y’all get a kick out of them.

The intelligence quotient on Venus
So many Earthers disrespect the Venusians because of their population’s low IQ. Do you know what the numbers 1776 and 1492 have in common on Venus? They are adjoining rooms at the Venusian Deluxe Hotel. I can’t wait to stay there.

Cleaning house on another planet
On Mars, there are dust storms and, therefore, a lot of dust in peoples’ homes. But Uncle Jerry says he threw his vacuum cleaner away the other day because it was just collecting dust.

Substitutes are okay if you don’t have the real thing
Uncle Jerry’s extended family has owned a hardware store for as long as he can remember. It doesn’t surprise me that he’s had a step ladder for a long time. Sadly, he told me with a tear in his eye, he never knew his real ladder.

Lamenting cement
When you mix quick-drying cement, there are many hard-and-fast rules. 

Posted in Jokes | Leave a comment