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.

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When You Feel Unloved, God is Near

by Denise Miller Holmes

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  –Rom 8:38-39

When you are going through a time of rejection, abandonment, or isolation, it is hard to feel loved. Yet, God says He loves us no matter what.

Several years ago, I was in such a circumstance—where I’d experienced profound rejection and felt terribly unloved. In fact, I had experienced several occurrences of rejection and I felt alone and worthless.

But God found me.

My husband and I went to breakfast on a Sunday morning, and when we left, I stood in the parking lot and waited for hubby to go find the car and bring it back.

While I stood and waited, I must have looked rather pitiful. My head was down, my shoulders were hunched, and I felt like I could barely breathe.

A woman of about fifty years of age approached me, and I heard her speak softly, “Can I pray for you?”

I answered, “Yes,” and felt her arms hug me. She prayed for me to feel loved and accepted, and for God to bless me. I thanked her and felt a rush of love surround, then fill me.

I got into the car when Mark drove up and said, “Wow. That lady prayed for me. I’d forgotten what it feels to be accepted and loved.” I started crying.

I’ll never forget that day. No matter how far away you feel from God’s love, He is always near. He will remind you in some small ways that he cares—no matter what people are telling you through their words and actions.

Embrace this. Believe this. You are never far from the love of God.

Dear Jesus. I ask that you help me to feel your love. I feel alone and unlovable sometimes, yet I know you love me. Help me feel it. Reach into my heart and cause me to sense your amazing, loving Presence. Amen

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Add Fascination and Entertainment to Your Writing with Unique Resources

By Denise Miller Holmes, The Witty Wise Woman
Director of Words for the Journey

Many of the writers I’ve taught in the past struggle with creating things that are unique. Commonly, fiction writers who want to be published aim toward genres with certain conventions and tropes, which make the book sellable. This tendency is good for saleability, but it can make a writer afraid to be creative and unique. Writers, by aiming at getting their books published, can fall into the habit of creating cardboard or cliché characters, settings, and plots.

There is a happy medium, of course, between cardboard and completely beyond what the genre allows. There is no harm in creating characters, settings, and plots that have unique elements sprinkled in. And these elements are easily found in reference books and other resources.

Spicing up Characters
I’ve got a book called Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents by Cormac O’Brien. In it, I found out Thomas Jefferson used to work and greet guests in his pajamas. I bought it not only to read for information, but also for entertainment. And, why not, I thought, use these historical quirks to flavor my fictional characters? Yes. Why not?

Also, the same author wrote a similar volume on the First Ladies called Secret Lives of the First Ladies.
Spicing up Setting
Create exciting settings for your characters to have their first kiss in, or even to do their homework. [Smile]

I recently saw a YouTube video that showed an exotic island that is known for its beautiful caves and, of all things, salt. The salt there is every color of the rainbow. I thought I might create a smaller version of that island in a river. Let’s say in a small town called Cupcake Falls. That’s where the characters have their first kiss—on that little island on the river, right by a mound of beautiful red salt.

Of course, the term settings includes not only locations, but historical occurrences too. Suppose the girl wants to be a comedy actress, and the guy proposes to her by taking her to the very place where Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz got married.

The point is, you take the theme of your main characters, then match it to something from history. It adds depth, without being heavy-handed.

Settings can be spiced using sources such as The Weird Travel EBook (found on Amazon); and Weird-but-True Facts about U.S. History. Another resource that looks promising to me is Don’t Go There: From Chernobyl to North Korea…the World’s Strangest Places, by Adam Fletcher.

Of course, if your story is set in a small town or in a rural place, then you can make up a weird place in the town (with ideas gleaned from a resource I’ve mentioned) or make up a history for that town that accentuates the themes and histories of the characters.  Just experiment with this and see how very creative and fun it is to use strange books to add pizzazz.

Now, let’s go on to plot.

Spicing up Plots
You can use this next resource as a prompt to start a story, or to give you ideas for incidents that happen in a story you’re currently writing. There are books of collected anecdotes that are meant to be used in sermons or speeches. They’re short stories (very short) that are either humorous or illustrate a point.

The reference book I have now is based on historical people who are known public figures. I just thumb through Bartlett’s Book of Anecdotes and see if there’s a little story I can use or something that gives me an idea for a scene.

One word of caution: when using these anecdotes for speeches, you are expected to openly report who said and did these things. However, when using these anecdotes in fiction, you should tweak the incidents to fit your story. This also means that you don’t copy the circumstances exactly. Women become men, theaters become gymnasiums or even a restaurant while having a quiet lunch. A walk down a pathway, where someone quips something funny, turns into two couples riding in a car together. Make it your own.

If you want more on the ethical way to borrow a plot or scene idea, buy Steal This Plot. It’s great! (P. S., borrowing ideas is not considered stealing, it’s just a sexy title.)

Go create, my pretties!

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The Perseverance of Emily Blunt

By Denise Miller Holmes, The Witty Wise Woman

Emily Blunt

The story of the actor Emily Blunt and the painful obstacles she faced in order to become successful, demonstrates two things: 1) Even the privileged can find it difficult to succeed, and 2) perseverance overcomes those difficulties (where there’s a will there’s a way, and all that).

Emily was born into a rich household, so you’d think success would be easy, right? But, from the ages of seven to fourteen, she experienced sever stuttering. This was so crippling, she couldn’t have a normal conversation. It left her increasingly isolated. And you know how children mock people that stutter! It’s torture for the victim and the embarrassment chips away at his or her self-esteem.

To look at Blunt now—she’s co-starred with top leading men such as Matt Damon, Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson—you’d never know that she started out life with such low self-esteem.

Her rise to “overcomer” status is at least partially credited to a teacher who took her under her protective and supportive wing. She taught her how to stop stuttering.

The real breakthrough came when Blunt’s teacher got the idea for Blunt to audition for the school play. At first, she said no because she feared she would be teased, but her teacher prevailed.

Blunt got the part, and as she practiced, her stuttering improved and she gained confidence. An even bigger breakthrough came when her teacher instructed her to experiment with character voices and accents. Her stutter fell away!

Now, Emily has a vibrant career in films. She’s appeared in such hit films as Edge of Tomorrow (with Tom Cruise),Loopers (with Bruce Willis), The Adjustment Bureau (with Matt Damon), and Jungle Cruise (with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). Not shabby!

She currently sits on the directors’ board of the organization, American Institute for Stuttering.

Of course, when we are struggling, it takes great faith and no doubting in order to persevere. Let me remind you of the fabulous verse in Jeremiah. Embrace this and you’ll find the fuel to power your steadfastness.

“. . . For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. . . .” – Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

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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!

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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)

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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.)

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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