Tag Archives: Edie Melson

To NaNo or Not? NaNoWriMo Decoded, Call-Outs & Book Give Away

NaNo-2015-Participant-Badge-Large-SquareVonda here: Writers, are you wondering what all this NaNoWriMo talk is about? Trying to decide if it’s something you should consider? Thanks Edie Melson, here are the answers to your questions! (I’m participating for the first time this year!)

To NaNo or Not? NaNoWriMo Decoded, by Edie Melson

Among those whose heart’s desire is to write a novel, November thoughts turn to the dilemma of NaNoWriMo. For the uneducated, November has long become known as National Novel Writing Month—NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo is an idea that has exploded in popularity. The idea is that you write the first draft (minimum of 50,000 words) of a novel in one month. At first this may sound ridiculous, but many writing instructors advocate writing your first draft quickly, without editing. James Scott Bell encourages this in his book, The Art of War for Writers. I highly recommend this book, by the way and it was the very first book reviewed on this blog. Curious to learn more? Click here to read the review.
So how do you get involved with NaNoWriMo?
  • First, visit the website and set up an account.
  • Second, familiarize yourself with the site and the many things they offer.
  • Third, start brainstorming ideas.

Yep, I’ve found it helps me to have an idea of where I’m going with my novel. I don’t want to get into the whole plotter or pantster debate, but I highly recommend at least a glimmer of an idea before you start.

Still unconvinced it’s for you? Consider this, people participate in NaNo for many reasons—many of them good—here are just a few to consider.

  • For Fun: maybe you’ve been toying with the idea of writing a novel. Here’s your time to give it a try.
  • To Jumpstart Your Next Book: if you write professionally, the work of writing can sometimes get in the way of actual writing. NaNo can help you get back on track.
  • An Accountability Group: Some of us just do better when we have to report on our progress. NaNoWriMo actually requires that.
  • A Deadline and Goal: I don’t know about you, but I can do almost anything for a month—give up chocolate, start an exercise program, get familiar with a new routine. Why not try writing a novel?
  • Company in a Lonely Endeavor: writing is a solitary pursuit and can often be intimidating and discouraging. Aligning with a group that has a shared goal and purpose helps alleviate the loneliness and helps keep us motivated.
  • To Win: yes, I admit it. I’m highly competitive and just thinking about NaNoWriMo gets my adrenaline pumping.

Vonda here: Edie and I would love to see who’s participating in NaNoWriMo, so be sure to leave a comment and let us know your NaNoWriMo name (you choose it when you register). Ours are easy to remember: emelson and vondaskelton.

Also, if you’ve participated in NaNoWriMo previously, please share your suggestions and comments based on your experience. Thanks!


I want to hear about your successes! celebration - Morguefile

Okay, friends, now it’s time to hear from you! We want to know what you’ve been up to. Have you had something exciting happen recently in your writing or speaking life? Maybe you’ve had an article published, signed a book contract, released a new book, got an agent, or started a new blog. If so, we want to hear from you!

It’s really simple, but I do ask that you contact me with the info in this format and order ONLY:

**Your name
**Your state in two-letter abbreviation
**Link to your website or blog
**Your good news
**Link to your good news, if online (online bookstore, online article, etc)

I can’t wait for us to celebrate with you!


mogo7000 logoWho Worked on Their MoGo7000 in October?

If you wrote at least 7000 new words on a book project in October, you can receive an entry in the drawing for the 2015 MoGo7000 $100 cash prize! It’s open to everyone who qualifies.

To report your October results, please leave a comment below with your total new words written on a book project in October. (Please do not send your totals by email or through the Contact page. Totals must be left as a comment here by next Sunday). 

If you missed out on last year’s money-winning writing challenge, don’t worry, the 2015 challenge continues! Here are the MoGo7000 Challenge rules.

Each month that you qualify with 7000 new words, your name goes in the “hat” for the drawing. Reach the goal one month and you’ll have one entry. Just starting out? Don’t worry! Meet it the next 2 months and you’ll have 2 entries!

So what are you waiting for? Get started now and you could have and extra $100 next year. Participating in NaNoWriMo? Those words can also count as your Mogo7000 words. And it doesn’t cost you a cent!Broken Butterfly Cover (1)


Who won Cindy Patterson’s book?

And the winner is…

Tammy Whitehurst!

Congratulations, Tammy! Simply contact me with your snail mail address and Cindy will get your book right out to you! And friends, I know you’re gonna want Cindy’s book, so here’s a direct Amazon link to Broken Butterfly.


Well, that does it for our first November meeting. Now get to work and write!



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5 Reasons to Take Your Time with Self-Publishing, Kudos & MoGo7000 Qualifiers

books pixabayLet’s start with 5 Reasons to Take Your Time with Self-Publishing

If you’ve been writing a while, you’ve probably been there . . . at the crossroads of excitement and frustration. You know your concept is salable. Your story is good. Your topic is timely. But you just received another rejection letter. What’s wrong with these people? Why can’t they see the value of your project? Don’t they know this book needs to be out NOW?

Self-publishing is looking better by the day.

I’m the first to tell you there are lots of great reasons to self-publish, and I’ve talked about the subject several times here at the Christian Writer’s Den. If you’d like to take a look, check out these links to Three Points to Consider if You’re Considering Self-Publishing, How to Tell Your Amazing Life Story, and Do I Really Need an Agent?

But I’m also the first to admit that there are some particularly good reasons NOT to jump into self-publishing. Time is one of them.

In this on-demand world of instant gratification, self-publication can be seen as a quick way to get your book out and in the hands of excited readers. That could be the case; however, successful self-publishing usually takes time. Before you self-publish, you need to consider these five truths about writing.

  1. Good writing takes time. It’s sad to think back on the many writers I know who sat down, wrote a book, and self-published it because they had to get it out now. Years later, many of them wish they had taken the time to do the real work of a good writer. I’ve admitted in several posts that I wrote my first children’s novel in a matter of 2-3 months, edited it as I went along, and immediately sent it out to editors and agents. After all, I knew I was a good writer, and it wasn’t only my mother who confirmed it. My high school teachers and college professors did, too. But I was wrong. After years of rejection, I finally learned that for most professional writers, good writing takes multiple rewrites, critiques by other writers, and some time between writing and publishing.
  2. Good editing takes time. Proper editing involves much more than proofreading and requires more skill than a read-through. Quality editing is a volleying experience between you and your editor. After you do your own writing and rewriting, you submit the project to the editor for his input, and he bounces the project back to you. You then do more corrections, sometimes large chunks of rewrites, and send the project back to the editor for more input and conversations regarding differing opinions. This could happen multiple times over multiple days and weeks, perhaps even months. A good editor is worth paying for.
  3. Good covers take time. If we’re honest, it’s often easy to pick out a self-published book by simply looking at the cover. Like the editing process, a good cover requires a back-and-forth effort with a graphic artist or cover designer. Several options should be offered, with input and feedback from both the author and the designer. Remember, the first think a potential buyer will see is the cover. To give your book the best chance at success, take the time required to have an eye-catching, quality cover.
  4. Good marketing strategy takes time. Don’t wait until you have your book to plan your marketing strategy. My bestselling author friends, Edie Melson and DiAnn Mills, have developed an excellent class on this very topic. “An Author Roadmap to Find Your Superhighway for Marketing and Branding” will be coming to writers conferences around the country beginning this month, and you don’t want to miss it. These successful authors will teach a timeline of when to do what, and believe me, it starts long before your book is out.
  5. Good publishing takes time. It’s not unusual for traditional publishing to take 1-2 years from contract to release while self-publishing can allow you to get your book written and published within weeks. But as you can see from this list, speed is not the best indicator of success. Some may argue that traditionally published books have come out quickly and been very successful, such as those related to current events and headline news. But remember, those publishers have a full staff of experts working around the clock to create that successful, quickly published book. Most of us don’t have such staff at our disposal.

Although self-published books can release on a shorter timeline than traditionally published ones, most successful books are the results of good writing, good editing, good covers, good marketing strategy, and a good investment of time.


Kudos to YOU!celebration - Morguefile

These Christian Writer’s Den friends have been working hard and congratulations are in order!

1.  Andrea Merrell (SC): I had a two-page article about prodigals in the September issue of
Reach Out Columbia magazine.

2.  Dee Dee Parker (NC): Dee Dee won the first place award in the Southern Living Magazine’s Short Fiction Contest and is featured in the October issue!

3.  Susan Baganz (WI): Susan has finished another contracted book in a series!

Congratulations, writers! I’m proud of you. :-)


mogoWho MoGo’d in September?

We only had one MoGo-er for September, but she blew it out of the water!

#12: Susan Baganz – 27,871 words

Congrats, Susan!

Writers, you have three more months in 2015 to earn entries into the drawing for $100. MoGo7000 Challenge guidelines are here. It’s free!


That does it for today. Writers, don’t forget to help another writer today. :-)


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Interview & Book Give-Away with Yvonne Ortega, and Who Won Kathy Carlton Willis’ Book?

Yvonne Ortega headshotWelcome to the Christian Writer’s Den 5th Tuesday as we welcome author and speaker, Yvonne Ortega!

Yvonne and I go way back to 2005 or so when we first met through the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA). In 2011 she attended the NCompass Writing Retreats that Edie Melson and I were leading at the time (before life got so crazy that we had to discontinue it). Then in 2012, she attended Christian Communicators Conference. During that time, she was cranking out books and blog posts, while also providing counseling in many areas of need.

Since then, God has continued to use her in powerful ways to reach those who need to hear the Good News of the love, grace, and mercy of our Lord. She has gone on to get even more training and as you’ll see, is now training others! But one of the things I love the most about Yvonne is her often-stated goal, “To reach millions for Jesus in my lifetime.” Wow. Can you see why I’m excited about sharing her latest book with you?

Be sure to leave a comment for Yvonne and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of her latest book, Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward.

So let’s get started! Welcome, Yvonne. First of all, I’d like you to tell my friends a little about yourself.

I’m a small-town gal who enjoys the beach and music—everything from country western to classical music. Mention travel, and I’ll pack my bags right away. I watch comedies and laugh until my sides hurt.

As I’ve already mentioned, you’re a professional speaker and an author. How did you get interested in this line of work and ministry?

As a child, I gathered the neighborhood kids to play school. I was the teacher. Mama took me to the library weekly until I could go on my own. I would get lost in a book and forget to eat if it weren’t for Mama’s dinnertime call. I liked the smell and feel of paper and composition books and wrote stories. At thirteen, I submitted my first letter to the editor of the local newspaper.

After a diagnosis of breast cancer fourteen and a half years ago, I cried out to God through journaling. After lots of rewrites, I wrote my first book, Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer. I had to speak in order to market and publicize the book.

That led me to speaker training, and now I’m a World Class Certified Speaking Coach.

What led you to write your second book?

Prior to breast cancer, I had gone through a domestic violence marriage, divorce, and single parenting. After breast cancer, I had four car accidents in seven years. None were my fault, but I suffered injuries and damage to my car. Six years ago, my only child unexpectedly passed away following surgery. Each crisis forced me to my knees in prayer and to the Bible for answers. God showered me with his love, Yvonne Ortega book cover 2compassion, and faithfulness.

After the divorce, I became a Licensed Professional Counselor and became involved in Women’s Ministry. I met many hurting women who didn’t know they could move from broken to beautiful with God’s help. That’s how my latest book, Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward, came about. Passion drives me to share the message of these life lessons with women worldwide. Hurting people don’t need to give up. They can move forward and lead a productive, joyful life beyond measure.

What words of wisdom do you have for women who want to write about their painful past?

  • Make sure you’re ready to write about your painful past without an emotional, physical, or spiritual collapse. Take your time to heal. Ask God to show you when you can tackle the trauma of your past. He will show you.
  • Have you forgiven those who hurt you? God says in 1 Peter 3:9, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.” I struggled to forgive my ex-husband. With God’s help, I’m no longer a prisoner of the past. Your readers want to know you aren’t either.
  • Acknowledge your pain and loss and admit you still grieve. I lost my mother before Mother’s Day and my only child three days after in the same year. Their birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Mother’s Day trigger the pain. They’re in heaven, but I can’t call or visit them and can’t send them a card or a gift. They can’t call or visit me, or send me a card or gift either. That hurts.
  • If you present yourself as Wonder Woman, your readers can’t identify with you. And you can’t minister to them. Acknowledge both your strengths and weaknesses.
  • In writing about your painful past, you answer a divine call. You minister to those you write and speak for. Your writing cannot be therapeutic journaling. There is a place for therapeutic journaling, but not for publication. For publication, include application, application, and more application. Have Scriptures, prayers, resources, links, quotations, etc. for the readers. Answer the question, “What’s in it for them?”

Your advice is right on target! Where can readers find your book?

Moving from Broken to Beautiful is available as a paperback and an ebook on Amazon and other online booksellers.

Do you have another book in progress?

I’m thrilled to say I’m halfway through writing a book on forgiveness.

Awesome, Yvonne! I didn’t know that! Thank you for joining us today. I pray God continues to bless you as you bless others.

And readers, don’t forget to leave a comment for Yvonne and you’ll be in the Random.org drawing for a free book. Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner.

Yvonne Ortega book cover 1Readers, you can contact Yvonne through:

Her website: www.YvonneOrtega.com

Her blog: On the homepage of her website

Twitter: @yvonneortega1

Facebook: Yvonne Ortega

Facebook Community Page: Yvonne Ortega

To contact Yvonne about a speaking event, please visit her website or contact her directly at yvonne@yvonneortega.com

Bio: Yvonne Ortega is a World Class Certified Speaking Coach, an international speaker, author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward and Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer and a contributing author to two anthologies. She has taught at major Christian writing conferences in the USA. Yvonne has been interviewed on radio and TV programs including Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk, the Harvest Show, 100 Huntley Street, and Marnie’s Friends. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and has taught Precept Bible Studies and in Bible Study Fellowship. Yvonne currently serves on the Advisory Board for Christians in Recovery. She served as the Regional Speaker Trainer of Virginia for more than three years and on the board of Kairos Prison Ministry. Subscribe to her newsletter and free weekly devotion at www.YvonneOrtega.com


And who won Kathy Carlton Willis’ book, Grin with Grace?Grin-With-Grace_cover

The winner is:

Jean Wilund!

Congratulations, Jean! All you need to do is contact me with your snail mail address and Kathy will get your book right out to you!

And for you who didn’t win, here’s your direct Amazon link to Grin with Grace. I know you want your own copy so you’ll be able to grin through the tough times, too!


Friends, I don’t know if you noticed, but both of these books are about how to get through those tough times in life. I didn’t plan this, but apparently God did! I hope you find that both of these books encourage you and lift you up through the human lessons and the supernatural love, grace, and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Grace and peace be your in abundance,


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Interview & Book Give-Away with Kathy Carlton Willis and Who Won Edie Melson’s Book?

Kathy Carlton Willis ImageIt’s a joy to introduce my friend, Kathy Carlton Willis, to you!

Kathy and I have been friends for many years and have seen many changes in the writing world. But one thing remains constant: The secret to getting your work published is to write well! And that’s exactly what Kathy did with her latest book, Grin with Grace. What a joy to share this new book with you!

Leave a comment for Kathy and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of Grin with Grace! Be sure to check back next week to see if you’re the winner. Now, let’s get started!

Welcome, Kathy! Let’s begin by letting you tell my friends a little bit about yourself.

I’m a flawed pastor’s wife on the search for grace. I’ve discovered a lot about God, others and myself along the way. I dote on my Boston Terrier, Jazzy, and love to find the humor in any given situation—even the trials. I’ve laughed. A lot. Grace (and Jazzy) have a lot to do with the ability to grin even when I’d rather groan or grit my teeth.

Will you share how you began your speaking and writing ministry?

I guess we can blame my profusion of words on my Mom. She says I pretty much came out of the womb talking, and soon after she helped me discover our public library. I’ve always been a words girl and started writing when I started writing—and haven’t looked back!

How did you come up with Grin with Grace?

All through my husband’s time in church ministry—over thirty years now—I’ve learned the importance of grinning with grace. So often, when I felt backed into a corner by a not-so-well-meaning church member, I found a way to bite my tongue: I told myself to grin with grace. It became my go-to phrase.

To organize the book, I searched for the word grace in Scripture and combined the results into different categories. I discovered how God blesses us with His grace, and the ways grace impacts our relationships with Him and others. Since life is more bearable with laughter, humorous transparency is woven into the fabric of this study. Hence—Grin with Grace.

I know from my own experience that God often qualifies us as authors by allowing us to gain life experience before we write on the topic. What happened to prepare you for writing Grin with Grace?

While writing this series, I dealt with multiple health issues, surgeries, cancer, and hospitalizations. At the same time, I moved to a different town and dove in to a new church ministry with my husband. Very little in life seemed familiar or comfortable. But God infused grace into each challenge and turned them into opportunities.

What will readers discover in Grin with Grace?Grin-With-Grace_cover

Grace isn’t meant to be hoarded. Once God blesses us with grace, we are then recruited to be instruments of His grace to others. Grin with Grace tells stories of real-life grace and gives suggestions for creating new grace moments for others. Learn how to become a Grace agent.

What are some of the events you have planned to go along with your Grin with Grace book? Event planners are welcome to contact me to find out more about these programs: Grace Gal Pal’s Night Out, Grin with Grace Banquet, Tea or Brunch, and the Grin with Grace Retreat.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

If you’re serious about obtaining the writing goals God’s given you, then you have to act like the CEO of your own company and do the work of writing. If you treat it as a hobbyist, you will get hobby-like results. But when you treat it like a business, the industry will take you seriously. Take the time to do it right the first time rather than getting in a hurry. Ask yourself: “Am I in love with the idea of being a writer, or am I in love with actually writing?”

(Vonda here: Kathy didn’t tell you, so I will. Kathy also has a writers group she coaches called WordGirls. It’s a group customized to the needs of the members, and involves a variety of services: webinars, private Facebook discussion group, one-on-one coaching, critiques, weekend getaways, downloadable tutorials, monthly newsletter and more. Their next event is in Kentucky later in October. Contact Kathy if you’d like to hear more about WordGirls.)

Where can readers find your book?

Grin with Grace is published by AMG Publishing and can be found or requested anywhere books are sold.

So what’s on the horizon? Do you have another book in progress?

The next book in the Grin With…Bible Study Series is Grin with Joy. It’s set to release around March, 2016. I also have a book for speakers that released this year titled Speaker to Speaker: The Essential Speaker’s Companion.

Thank you for being with us today, Kathy. You gave us all a lot to think about and work on.

And friends, don’t forget to leave a comment for Kathy and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of her book!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00025]Readers, you can contact Kathy through:
Her website:
Her Grin with Kathy Blog: http://www1.cbn.com/blog-grin-and-grow-with-kathy
Twitter: @KCWComm
Facebook: Kathy Carlton Willis
Facebook Groups: Grin with Kathy and Speaker to Speaker
To contact Kathy, please email her at: kathy@kathycarltonwillis.com

Bio: Kathy Carlton Willis writes and speaks with a balance of funny and faith—whimsy and wisdom. Not many funny girls also have Bible degrees! Kathy’s a pastor’s wife, which gives her plenty of opportunities to grin with grace. She shines the light on issues that hold women back and inspires their own lightbulb moments. Almost a thousand of Kathy’s articles have been published in books, magazines, newspapers and online publications. Kathy’s tagline describes her best: Light & Lively: His Reflection/Her Laughter. Kathy lives with her pastor/husband, Russ, in Rockdale, Texas.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Connections cover

Who won Edie Melson’s book, Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers?

And the winner is…

Rene` Diane Aube!

Congratulations, Rene`! Just contact me with your mailing address and your book will be on it’s way!


Thanks for Tweeting!

Can you grin through the gook of life? Grace can’t be hoarded! #Free book #amwriting @KCWComm via @VondaSkelton http://ow.ly/Sve09 (Click to Tweet)

Happy writing!


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Writers Headlines: Writing Opportunities, Contests, & Conferences & a Special Writing Give-Away

newspapersHappy 3rd Tuesday, friends! Let’s start with writing opportunities selected just for you! (Be sure to check out the brand new giveaway at the end of this post!)

Struggling to find places to submit your writing? Here are some suggestions:

1.  WITH: Why Is This Happening? is a site designed to encourage and lift those who are struggling. Even though this is not specifically a writing opportunity, I just had to include it. After all, many writers and speakers are compelled to write and speak because of an experience in their lives. This could be your chance to help others! Here’s the link for instructions on how to submit a video or written message. As always, remember to follow instructions carefully.

2.  Elk’s Magazine buys 20-30 preciously unpublished articles a year. Here are the Elk’s Magazine writers guidelines.

3.  Clubhouse Magazine for Kids guidelines   

4.  Faith Today: Canada’s Christian Magazine guidelines

5.  Georgia Family Magazine guidelines

6.  Adventure Kayak Magazine contributor guidelines

7.  Bead & Button Magazine submission guidelines

8.  Guide is a Christian story magazine for young people ages 10-14. The 32-page, four-color publication is published weekly by the Pacific Press Publishing Association. Our mission is to show readers, through stories that illustrate Bible truth, how to walk with God now and forever. Writing Guidelines for Guide Magazine here.

9.  Lerner Publishing Group works with many talented authors and illustrators to create its books for children and young adults. Here are our current submission guidelines.

10. Chicken Soup is always looking for stories!

11. Pockets Devotionals for Kids

12. Saturday Evening Post guidelines

Okay, that does it for this month’s opportunities. Be sure to let me know if you get a publication through this list. I’d love to celebrate with and brag on you!


Image courtesy of StuartMiles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of StuartMiles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here are some awesome contest opportunities for you:

1.  Kathy Ide’s 4th Annual Promising Beginnings Christian Writers Contest. Winner receives a full scholarship to Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in March 2016 in CA. Deadline November 30, 2015.

2.  Writer’s Digest Self-Published eBook Awards. Deadline September 21, 2015.

3.  Writer’s Digest Poetry Competition. Deadline October 1, 2015.

4.  Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition . Deadline November 16, 2015.

5.  Almost An Author will open the Fresh Voices Writing Contest for submission beginning October 1, 2015. Deadline December 1, 2015.


Image courtesy of StuartMiles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of StuartMiles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Which conference or conferences are you attending within the next year?

1.  American Christian Fiction Writers Conference: September 17-20, 2015, Dallas, TX

2.  Writer-to-Writer: September 18-20, 2015, Murfreesboro, TN

3.  Breathe Christian Writers Conference: October 9-10, 2015, Grand Rapids, MI

4.  Blue Ridge Christian Novelist Retreat: October 18-22, 2015, Ridgecrest, NC (I’ll see you there!)

5. Heart of America Christian Writers Network Conference: October 22-24, 2015, Greater Kansas City Area, KS

6.  WordGirls: October 22-24, 2015, Owensboro, KY

7.  Maranatha Christian Writers’ Conference: October 22-25, 2015, Norton Shores, MI

8.  East Texas Christian Writers Conference: October 30-31, 2015, Marshall, TX

9.  Next Step Writers Contreat (Yes, the spelling is correct. :-) : November 12-14, 2015, Albuquerque, NM (Scholarships available, but today is the last day to apply, so hurry!)

10. Weekend with the Writers: January 29-30, 2016, Greenville, SCWritersBootcamp2016 logo

11. Writers Advance Boot Camp: February 19-21, 2016, Asheville, NC Scholarship deadline October 31, 2015 (I’ll see you there!)

12.  Florida Christian Writers Conference: February 24-28, 2016, Leesburg, FL

13. Carolina Christian Writers Conference: March 11-12, 2016, Spartanburg, SC. Details coming soon!

14. Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference: March 18-22, 2016, Mount Hermon, CA

15. Mid-South Christian Writers Conference: March 19, 2016, Colliersville, TN

16. Write2Ignite for Writers of Children’s Literature: April 1-2, 2016, Tigerville, SC

17. Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference: May 22-26, 2016, Ridgecrest, NC (I’ll see you there! Watch for details coming soon!)

18.  New England Christian Writers Retreat: June 17-19, 2016, Hamilton, MA

19.  St. David’s Christian Writers Conference: June 22-26, 2016, Grove City, PA


FREE PixabayWell, that does it for our regular announcements, but today we have a special give-away!

I’m thrilled to let you know that each person who Tweets or shares today’s post on Facebook or other social media will receive an entry into a drawing for a free copy of Edie Melson‘s best-selling book, Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers! Thanks, Edie, for sharing your book with my readers!

Simply Tweet or post and leave a comment that you’ve done it, and you’ll be in the drawing. The winner will be announced next week, so don’t forget to check back!

It’s easy to share with this Tweetable!

#Writing opps-contests-conferences & free socialmedia book by @EdieMelson via @VondaSkelton #amwriting #pubtips (Click to Tweet)

Happy writing!


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Interview & Book Give-Away with Nan Jones

Nan Jones new headshotFriends, it’s a joy to introduce my friend, author, speaker, and Christian Communicators speaker training graduate, Nan Jones, to you. Nan and I met many years ago when she attended one of the writing retreats Edie Melson and I used to lead in the beautiful North Carolina mountains. Since then we’ve watched her grow as a speaker and award-winning writer of The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife. We feel like proud mamas!

Be sure to leave a comment for Nan and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book. Don’t forget to return next week to see if you’re the winner. Now let’s hear from Nan!

Welcome, Nan! Let’s start by letting you tell us a little bit about yourself.

I live in the mountains of North Carolina. My home is a farmhouse built in 1895 with a much loved wrap-around porch, complete with rocking chairs and porch swing. I have three adult children and one grandchild. I served as a pastor’s wife for 31 years—a great honor—but these years of ministry were some of the most painful and difficult in my life, thus my book, The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife. When I’m not writing or preparing messages for my speaking ministry, you’ll find me gardening, crocheting, reading or sharing a cup of coffee with a friend.

Will you share how you began your speaking and writing ministry?

As a child I was an avid reader and have always enjoyed the power of story. I am also an artist. Around age ten, I realized I could put my two passions together and paint with my words. It seemed to ooze out of me. When I was twelve I made a list of my life goals. Writing a book was number one.

Throughout my life writing was a hobby— something I did, not something I was. But a pen and paper was never far from me.

In 1992 we were living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. While attending a ladies’ conference I felt overwhelmed by the Spirit of God. He quietly whispered deep in my spirit, Nan, look at these ladies surrounding you. Even as they lift their hands in praise to Me, many are hurting deep within. You will take My message of love to them. You will teach them of My faithfulness, especially during the struggles of life.Nan Jones Perils book cover

For eighteen years I waited. I used those years to develop my faith, to be available for anything the Lord asked of me albeit teaching Bible studies, leading women’s ministry, writing and sharing devotions … whatever He asked, I did while awaiting the appointed time.

About five years ago my husband and I went through an extensive period of unemployment. It was at that time that my husband encouraged me to pursue my dream of writing and speaking full-time.

As a reader of your blog and book, I can totally confirm that you paint with words. I have to remind myself that coveting your gift of lyrical, beautiful writing is wrong!

What was the impetus of writing this book?

Pastors’ wives often live in silent pain. We have struggles, we experience enormous amounts of rejection, and our hearts are often ripped in two through the lonely fires of ministry. That sounds harsh, I’m sure, but most pastors’ wives will agree with me. My heart’s cry is that the pastor’s wife will realize she is not alone—that someone understands how she feels. I want her to walk away from this book with renewed confidence in her calling, with healing deep in her wounded spirit, and the realization that in her darkest moments God was with her—He is faithful.

Yes He is. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

The word that comes to mind is diligence. Be diligent in all things and write for an audience of One. Let it be an offering and leave the results up to Him, whether it reaches thousands or just a handful of people. God’s ways are not our ways. In that knowledge I can cease striving, but remain diligent.

Where can readers find your book?

The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife can be purchased on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

So what’s on the horizon? Do you have another book in progress?

Yes, I’m working on another non-fiction piece tentatively called SEEING BEYOND THE VEIL. It’s about learning to look for the evidence of God in our lives. When we’re going through a difficult time, it’s easy to think God has abandoned us, but I’ve learned that during our darkest moments, the Lord is closest—He is drawn to our pain. But we must open our eyes to see Him. I’m also working on a Bible study for small groups by the same title. In addition, I’ve created a Facebook community page with a similar purpose: Seeing Beyond the Veil.

Thank you for joining us today, Nan. I pray God’s continued blessing as you continue to bless others! And readers, don’t forget to leave a message for you. You could win a free book!

Nan Jones Perils endorsementReaders, you can contact Nan through:
Her website: www.NanJones.com
Her blog: Morning Glory
Twitter: @NanJonesAuthor
Facebook: Nan Trammell Jones
Facebook Community Page: Seeing Beyond the Veil (a place to find the nearness of God when you need Him most)
Pinterest: Nan Jones, Author
To contact Nan about a speaking event or prayer retreat, please visit her website or contact her directly at nan@jubilantlight.com

Bio: Nan Jones is an author/speaker who uses the words of her heart to assist fellow Christians in discovering the Presence of God in their darkest hour. Her devotional blog, Morning Glory, has become a place of community for Christians to find encouragement in God’s Word and comfort in His Presence. She has been published in several anthologies as well as the online inspirational sites Christian Devotions, and Inspire a Fire. Nan has also had the honor of being featured as a guest blogger on several sites. She is thrilled to announce her debut book, The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife released June 30, 2015 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. When Nan is not writing, she enjoys leading prayer retreats, Bible studies or sharing God’s love as keynote speaker for special events. She is becoming known by her brand: “Even so, I walk in the Presence of the Lord” as she teaches her audience to go beyond the veil to find God’s Presence.

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Are you a #pastorswife? Have you struggled with #hurts from the #church? Perils of a Pastor’s Wife is for you! @NanJones knows & understands. (Click to Tweet)

Happy reading and writing!


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Parting Words From The WORD…Entangled or Established?

Today I’m honored to have Edie Melson as a guest for our Parting Word From The WORD. It’s a lesson I needed to hear, and I think some of you might need it as well. Thank you for joining us, Edie.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Entangled or Established?

By Edie Melson

Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Romans 12:2


I tend to be just a bit ADD when it comes to life. (I’m like the dog in the movie UP…”Squirrel!”) The problem with me isn’t just purely distraction. Instead it stems from several things, not the least of which is the fact that I enjoy doing a lot of things.

I love to write, read, hang out with friends, knit, craft—the list goes on and on and on.

But the fact that I love so many things has often led me astray. I’m easily distracted and confused.

In the past I’ve gotten off-track because I’d mistaken doing something well with being called to do something.

To keep myself out of trouble and focused on what God has called me to do I’ve had to learn to walk closely with Him.

I’ve had to make certain my relationship with God is established, lest I risk getting entangled in something He hasn’t called me to do.

I’ve learned that the evil one loves nothing better than catching me unaware and entangling me in his worldly priorities.

This has proved the case for my spiritual life—whether or not a agree to do something at church or in ministry. It’s been true with my friends and family—I have to guard those relationships that God has given me as a priority. And it’s especially been important in my writing life—I’ve had to learn to say no to the good to make sure I have time for the best.

I’ve learned that the evil one loves nothing better than catching me unaware and entangling me in his worldly priorities.

The phrase that I have taped to the top of my desk is this:

Just because I can doesn’t mean I should.

How about you? Am I the only one who’s easily distracted? What do you do to stay established and avoid becoming entangled?

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Interview & Book Give-Away of Andrea Merrell’s Praying for the Prodigal, and Who Won Edie Melson’s Book?

Hello, Christian Writer’s Den friends. I’m back from Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and I’m so pumped! I can’t wait to share some of your books here at the Den, so get to work!

Andrea Merrell headshotToday is a special day as I introduce Andrea Merrell to you. Andrea and I met years ago when someone gave her my phone number, suggesting I could help her with writing. Well, as you know, I can’t make anyone a writer, but I can make suggestions of how to get started or what to do next. And the suggestions are always the same:

  • Attend writing conferences
  • Join a writer’s group
  • Learn to take critique well
  • Read everything you can about writing
  • Write, write, write
  • Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite
  • Hang out with writers (network) where you’ll constantly be learning from each other

Well, I’m happy to say that Andrea did everything I suggested–and more–and now she’s not only a published author, but a freelance editor, too! Way to go, Andrea!

(Friends, don’t forget to leave a comment for Andrea and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book!)

Okay, Andrea, let’s get started. First, would you tell us a little about your writing journey? 

Vonda, it’s such an honor to be with you and your readers today. I’ve been writing seriously for about sixteen years, but I owe a lot to you for being the first one to give me a spiritual kick in the pants (eight years ago) that got me headed in the right direction. Some of the best advice I ever received came from you, and I always like to pass it on to others, especially writers just starting on their journey: “Join a critique group, go to writers’ conferences, and network, network, network.” It takes time, effort, and finances to pursue the dream of being a writer, but when you know God has called you, it’s well worth it.

Amen, sister, it is soooo worth it! So tell us why you wrote Praying for the Prodigal: Encouragement and Practical Advice While Waiting for the Prodigal to Return?perf5.000x8.000.indd

Without exception, everywhere I go I run into someone who is dealing with a prodigal. Because I went through several years of my own personal hell with not one, but two prodigals, my heart goes out to parents, grandparents, and guardians dealing with the same situation. It’s easy to relate to their pain. I’ve shared bits and pieces of my story over the years with individuals one-on-one, but felt God nudging me to write down my experience and everything He taught me along the way.

What do you want readers to gain from your book?

Because I’ve been there—and survived—I want to share some of the lessons I learned, offer some practical advice, and encourage parents to learn to pray the Word of God over their children daily. It’s also important for them not to get caught in the blame game, or be weighed down with guilt and condemnation. My husband and I never thought this could happen to us, but we learned that even good kids rebel, and even good parents can end up with a prodigal—or in my case, two.

Did you ever get discouraged and want to give up?

Yes, yes, yes … so many times. I would say, “That’s it God, I’m not praying anymore. They’ve turned away from you and everything we’ve taught them. I can’t take it anymore. I’m over it!” That would last for about thirty seconds before I started crying and saying, “God, I’m sorry. You know I didn’t mean that.”

What a heartache! It must have been difficult to be so transparent about what you went through with your own children.

Murder of a Manuscript coverWriting this book was definitely a challenge in many ways. As I poured out my heart on paper, I had to relive many of the events that threatened to choke the life out of me. Even though it’s been over fifteen years, I still get emotional when I talk about my children and some of the agonizing moments my husband and I experienced. But as a writer, I’ve learned the more real you are with people, the more they can relate and the more benefit they receive from your words. The best part is the healing that took place in my own heart as I wrote through the pain.

I know there are other books that deal with prodigals. What makes your book different?

Along with my story of dealing with two prodigals at the same time, my book has A Parent’s Checklist for Survival and a chapter with Thirty Days of Prayers and Scriptures. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to pray for our children daily, especially grabbing hold of specific Scriptures and making them personal. God is faithful. His Word is true, and prayer is certainly what protected my children and brought them back to a place of repentance and restoration.

Another unique feature of my book is a chapter that gives advice from the prodigals themselves. One day while driving and thinking about how to end the book, the Lord dropped this idea in my heart: Ask your children to give advice from the prodigal’s point of view. I knew it was from Him because I would never have thought of such a great idea. I got so excited I almost ran off the road.

Powerful revelation, Andrea! Now, before we go, if you could give parents one thing to hold on to, what would it be?The Gift cover Andrea Merrell

The main thing I want them to know is that there is always hope. God loves our children even more than we do and He never plays favorites. If He delivered and restored my children, He can and will do it for anyone. The key is to trust Him wholeheartedly, stand on His Word, and never, ever give up—no matter how bad the situation may appear.

Thank you again for being with us today, Andrea. And friends, leave a comment for Andrea and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book! Don’t forget to come back next week to see if you’re the winner!

Bio: Andrea Merrell is Associate Editor for Christian Devotions Ministries and Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is also a freelance editor and has led workshops at various writers’ conferences. Andrea is the author of Murder of a Manuscript, The Gift, and Praying for the Prodigal. To learn more, visit www.AndreaMerrell.com or www.TheWriteEditing.com.

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#Praying for your #prodigal? @AndreaMerrell knows & understands your #pain. #parents Win a book! @VondaSkelton (Click to Tweet)


WMSS, final, high resAnd who won Edie Melson’s book, While My Soldier Serves: Prayers for Those With Loved Ones in the Military?

Random.org says the winner is…

Jeanne Doyon!

Woo-hoo! Congratulations, Jeanne! I love it when God orchestrates a win for someone who can directly benefit from a book! Thank you, Lord.

Jeanne, simply contact me with your mailing address and Edie will get your book right out to you!

And for those who didn’t win, here’s your direct Amazon link to While My Soldier Serves.

Thanks for Tweeting…Sharing is Sweet!

 Who won @EdieMelson’s book While My SoldierServes? #militaryfamilies #prayers via@VondaSkelton (Click to Tweet) 

That’s it for another 4th Tuesday. I’ll look forward to seeing you again on Friday!

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,


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Interview & Book Give-Away with Edie Melson, While My Soldier Serves: Prayers for Those with Loved Ones in the Military

Edie Melson, crop, high resVonda here: I know you’re probably surprised to see a post from me on a Wednesday, but this is one of those times I just had to make an exception. It all started back in 2001 when Edie Melson and I met at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference as writing newbies. Not only did we discover we lived in the same town, but we lived only three miles from each other! It was the beginning of a special friendship of encouragement, support, learning, and love.

God has blessed us both through the years, and we’re constantly amazed at how He has overseen and directed our lives as we’ve left the newbie stage behind and are now privileged to encourage, support, teach, and love on other writers.

And this week, while Edie and I are both at Blue Ridge again–she as the co-director, me as faculty–I want you to join me in celebrating the release of her brand new book, While My Soldier Serves: Prayers for Those with Loved Ones in the Military. I know you’ll see why this book is so important, especially at this time in our nation’s history.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for Edie and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book!

Interview & Book Give-Away with Edie Melson, While My Soldier Serves: Prayers for Those with Loved Ones in the Military


Welcome to the Christian Writer’s Den again, Edie. I’m so excited about your new book! Let me start by asking was it so important for you to write this book.

I struggled with fear while our son was deployed. Often the worst times were when I was awakened with horrible nightmares. I’d make my way downstairs and sit in the recliner, clutching my Bible and trying to pray. So often the prayers wouldn’t come. I longed for a book like this to give me a jumping off point for my own prayers.

Oh, Edie, I well remember those days for you. How was your own perspective helpful as the mother of an active duty marine?

I think that experience has given me insight into the deepest fears we face while a loved one is away at war. I know firsthand the hopelessness that comes from being unable to protect someone you love.

Why is prayer vital for our military soldiers?WMSS, final, high res

It’s vital that we’re covering our military with prayer. Prayer activates God’s power. Sure, He can and often does work without it, but I’ve also seen how He moves mountains because of it. Our prayers help provide protection, comfort, even peace for those serving so far from home.

I loved the fact that the prayers didn’t only focus on the soldier. Why is it important to not only pray for the soldier, but for their families and loved ones as well?

Our soldiers are not the only ones serving. The families may not be official members of the military, but the battles they face are every bit as real and every bit as dangerous. This is especially true now that terrorist groups are targeting military families in their war against America.

How did you choose the six categories (Wisdom, Strength, Faith, Protection, Peace, Those Close to My Loved One) to pray for the soldier?

I kept a deployment journal while my son was away at war. When I looked back through the prayers I recorded there, these were the things I prayed. It seemed to make sense to go with what brought me peace during those stressful time.

How did you choose the seven categories (Fear, Peace, Patience, Faith, Strength, Anger, Reaching Out to Others) to pray for oneself / those waiting at home?

Again, by going back through my journal and looking at the things I struggled with.

I love that you offer the most prayers for Faith for our soldiers. Why is faith so critical to those serving during these trying times?

I think faith is what gets us through the dark times. So often when things are the blackest, it’s hard to hear from God. Even though it isn’t true, it feels like God is far away with His back turned. It’s only our faith in what we know is true, instead of what we feel, that keeps us moving forward.

Image courtesy of Edie Melson

Image courtesy of Edie Melson

Yes, prayer is often the only thing that can get us through the dark times. I noticed that each prayer provides a perfect notable quote as well as dedicated scripture to tie in with the prayer’s message. How and why did you choose these?

I love quotes, and I felt that adding a quote would be another way to illustrate the focus of each prayer.

I know that the book isn’t just limited to individual family members and friends at home. Please share how While My Soldier Serves can be used for prayer groups praying for the military.

This book is a powerful tool for prayer groups. We know that when many people are praying the same thing it multiplies the power of those prayers. The idea of potentially thousands of people praying the same thing at the same time for our military is one of the most exciting aspects of publishing a book like this.

Thank you for joining us today, Edie. I pray God’s richest blessings as you continue to reach out to others through your writing and speaking ministry!

And readers, don’t forget to leave a comment for Edie and then return next Tuesday to see if you’re the winner of her book!

Thanks for Tweeting…Sharing is Sweet!

Military & their families & friends need #prayer. While My #SoldierServes by @EdieMelson via @VondaSkelton Win a book! (Click to Tweet)

 Here’s the Book Blurb:

While My Soldier Serves: Prayers for Those with Loved Ones in the Military

Thousands of families send loved ones off to fight on a daily basis. These families spend a lot of time living in a world out of control. This kind of stress can take an incredible toll, but there is hope. When we feel helpless, we can take our fears to the One who loves us more than anything and holds the universe in His hands.

In this book you’ll find the words to usher you into His presence. These prayers are a place to visit again and again as you take your own fears to God. They’re just a starting point, written to help you find your own voice as you call out on behalf of the one you love.

Bio: As the mother of a frontline infantry Marine, Edie Melson lived this book before she wrote it. Edie understands what it is to face adversity and come out triumphant on the other side. Her years as a wife, mother, and ministry leader have given her a unique perspective to reach out 
to others facing the same struggles.
 She’s the Military Family Blogger for Guideposts.org, social media director for several writing websites, and a popular ministry and conference speaker. Connect with her on her blog, The Write Conversation, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Parting Words From The WORD…I Can Do It All By Edie Melson

happy girl free Edie(Thanks to my dear friend, writer and speaker Edie Melson, for stepping in for me today. Knowing my readers, knowing Edie, and knowing myself, I think we all can use this reminder. Thanks, Edie!)

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

This was one of the first Bible verses I ever memorized. It’s a heady verse for someone like me. Someone who loves to say yes for two reasons— the sheer joy of being involved and the fear others wouldn’t like me if I couldn’t perform. It was a dangerous combination. But I truly believed this verse gave me the ability to say yes to everything, and God would provide a way.

Fast forward several years, and the price of saying yes began to take its toll on my mind and body. I no longer lived a life of joy and victory. Instead I was a slave of over commitment. And I finally broke. It wasn’t pretty. Diagnosed with severe depression and several other mental health challenges it took me months to recover.

It was a painful lesson, and one I had to learn to ever be able to move forward. When forced to give up everything, I thought I’d never get to do anything fun again and that everyone would dislike me. (Stupid I know, but it’s really what I believed.) Slowly I began to realize God’s plan didn’t involve me saying yes to every good activity or need within my community.ton of bricks free Edie

I also discovered that when I said yes to something that wasn’t intended for me, I was in the way. I’d taken a task from someone else and denied them the joy of obedience. I’d become a roadblock in the journey God had for them.

I’ve also learned not to equate a need with a call from God. By that I mean just because I see a hole that needs filling it’s not my job to jump in. God has proven perfectly capable of providing for the needs of those around me.

Now I’m living a much more balanced and joyful life. I’m still not perfect, there are days I just can’t say no. But He’s shown me that the things He’s given me weigh no more than a feather, no matter how labor intensive. But when I pick up a job or a burden on my own, no matter how small the time commitment, it weighs on me like a ton of bricks. That in itself makes me wary about saying yes without hearing from God.

To sum it all up:

I’ve learned that I really can do it all…as long as I’m not trying to do everything. @EdieMelson #blessed (Click to Tweet)

Today I encourage you to look at the balance in your life. Do you need to lay something down that’s intended for someone else? Are you crying out for rest because you’re carrying a load not meant for you? There is rest and peace, all you have to do is let go.

Edie Melson headshot-MaryBio: Edie Melson—author, editor, and blogger—is a leading professional within the writing industry, as well as a popular inspirational speaker and mentor. She writes for military families and veterans. Her first book is Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle. Her second, While My Soldier Serves: Prayers for Those with Loved Ones in the Military debuts on May 12 2015. She’s also the military family blogger for Guideposts at While They Serve.

Her popular blog for writers, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month, and she’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. She’s the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy, the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine, as well as the Senior Editor for NovelRocket.com. Connect on Twitter and Facebook.


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