Learning By Reading

By Rachel Hauck

I found a book that looked interesting to me on Barnes & Noble’s site.

A story set in the ’30s and had some element of football in it. So I downloaded it.

Devoured it. The story captured me. The writing… I didn’t spend half my time rewriting the sentences in my head or pondering why the character was acting without proper motivation.

I told Susie, “You have to read this book!”

And, as it was set in the ’30s and had football element to it, she was keen to give it a go.

Two days later she emails. “I’m mad at you! I stayed up until 2:00 a.m. reading that book.”

By now, I’m dying to talk to her about it because it had some fascinating elements. But she halted me from gushing on and on until she finished.

THEN, we had a long talk, breaking it down, decided what worked, what didn’t, why we liked it, how we could learn from this author.

The story was told from a single point of view in first person present tense. A form Susie and I have both written in the past but due to the more popular third person past, we both changed. There’s a bit more versatility with third-past.

It was told in alternating time lines: 1931-32 and 1938.

The author had good descriptions, good turns of phrase, a solid voice.

True to form, Susie noticed the main protagonist didn’t have a large story arc, but it was understandable. And that’s a trait of literary fiction.

We discussed the changes she did make, why and how.

We discussed the romance and the relationship between the protagonist and the hero.

“I loved them together,” Susie said, “And I was rooting for them, but I never saw why. Like what did he bring to her no one else could and what did she bring to him.”

Good point. You know we talk about the “essence” of a character here at MBT and how the hero and heroine must bring something to the other no one else does. Or sees the true person inside, underneath all the muck.

Luke Danes and Lorelei Gilmore are the perfect example of a couple who are very different but at the core the same and “get” one another. They bring out the best.

Back to the book Susie and I discussed…

We loved the time frame and setting.

We loved the writing.

We loved her phrasing.

She did a great job of obfuscating and deflecting truth.

There was a little girl in the story. The little sister of the heroine. But I KNEW it was really her daughter.

The love affair from the ’31 years gone south but she ended up pregnant. To hide her shame the parents raised the baby as their own

But I was wrong!

I studied how the author wrote the scenes with the little sister to figure out how she left room for this girl to really be her own, but yet wasn’t without lying to me, the reader.

There was a hurricane at the end of the book. A big slam bam finish!

I loved this the best. Because the hurricane was only mentioned twice in the story, almost a throw away line, by the protagonist’s aunt.

But if you’re a smart author, no line of dialog is a throw away!

Turns out the hurricane was making it’s way up the eastern seaboard, wreaking havoc.

It was the perfect foil. When the “big storm” was on its way — they didn’t know it was a hurricane — but I did, as the reader.

I love when plot points are so intricately woven in to the story. But not slapping me in the face.

The ending was the protagonist marrying her man, having a family, waiting for him to return from war. I cried, it was so good.

It hit all of my emotions.

I learned from it, as a writer.

So here’s my challenge to you all.

Take a book you love, pair up with another writer friend, and discuss it. What worked, what didn’t work? What did you learn? How can you incorporate it into your own writing?

I didn’t see the weak character arc until Susie pointed it out.

But she totally missed the layered in hurricane story.

We helped each other see and learn.

And it was fun!

So, go for it. Learn from others. Share.

Happy Reading and Writing.

ACFW – Are you ready?

successI’m at American Christian Fictions Writers Conference in St. Louis, Missouri this week. The place where writers and authors are gathering to learn craft and pitch their stories. For those that are yet unpublished, the anxiety before pitching can be crushing and the stress intense.

I remember my first time walking into a room of writers waiting to pitch. While most were friendly I couldn’t escape just how anxious many of them were. But then again, that year I didn’t pitch a story.

Once I went through it, boy did I gain a whole new understanding. I’m back again and this time around I’m determined to enjoy the conference, enjoy meeting people and yes, even enjoy pitching. I’m determined to conquer this challenge.

But one thing I know, I cannot do it alone.

So may I humbly offer some scriptures to hold onto?

Scriptures that if you were to walk by me, you might hear me mumbling to myself. You already know I’m a writer. So hey, this shouldn’t be too much of a shock.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

This scripture could be my all time favorite. Why? It’s not me gritting my teeth and muscling through. It’s God giving the strength. I’ve got really puny strength on my own, but with God? I’m tying my tiny row boat to his ship and hanging on as we power through the waves.

This is the day The Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

This is the day He’s given me, I’m to make the most of today and may all those around me see the peace of God and not some curly haired crazy brunette.  This is the season he’s sent for you and me to live. Let’s live it to the fullest, make the most of every conversation and every class at ACFW.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

I pray that your conference experience be all that you want it to be.

If you need prayer or just want to celebrate good news, please stop by The My Book Therapy Booth.


Alena Tauriainen






Outdated Blogging Myths Debunked

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

I’m on a lot of writer lists, and I read a lot of really questionable advice from well-meaning folks. But recently I read some advice that just about set my hair on fire. 

The person giving the questionable advice stated that no one should ever use BlogSpot or WordPress in their blog address. They said that if someone did, it would be almost impossible to break into the highest levels of SEO discoverability. They went on to say the reason for this is that there are millions of Blogger (BlogSpot) and WordPress blogs, so SEO doesn’t consider them professional, no matter how often the site is update.

This advice is so wrong—on so many levels—I almost don’t know where to start.

So I’ll begin with the original question

A writer simply wanted to know which was better, a website or a blog. There were a lot of folks who chimed in, with a lot of differing opinions. There’s nothing wrong with that.

The places where you can build your digital home are varied. And they’re not a one-size-fits-all proposition. For some, a full website—with someone else to run it—makes the most sense. For others, a blog is the perfect fit. I don’t have an issue with which you prefer. It truly is a personal choice.

I have to disagree with the quote above first because it’s outdated information. Using BlogSpot in your address will NOT hurt your SEO. On this site, I average over 50,000 unique visitors each month (and have for quite a while). Yes, I also own my own domain name www.EdieMelson.com, that also points to this site. But the largest majority (over 73%) of my hits come by way of the actual site address: www.TheWriteConversation.blogspot.com.

NOTE: For those who don’t know, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO is basically where, in the list of millions, your content will show up when searched by a reader (search engine). This is determined by a closely guarded, mathematical equation called an algorithm.. Here’s a blog post I wrote explaining SEO.

With all the search engine algorithm updates in recent years (penguin, panda, hummingbird, etc.), the SEO scale has tipped way over toward valuable content. That is the one single thing that weighs the heaviest in SEO. (I explain what the Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird updates are in this post.)

Personally, I have built a considerable business and reputation using Blogger. Through this site I have garnered the respect and attention from numerous top tier bloggers, including Daily Blog Tips, The Write Practice, Novel Rocket and Guideposts. It’s because of my site that I’ve been offered multiple blogging opportunities and it was this free platform that played a huge role in my landing the coveted spot as Military Family Blogger for Guideposts.org.

I’m not the only one on the web who proves out this truth. There are a lot of us with valuable, popular sites that contain Blogspot or WordPress.com. I prefer Blogger because it has the plugins necessary to grow a viable site. And, in my opinion, out of the free blogging platform options, it has the largest personalization options. (Here’s a comprehensive post I wrote to help writers decide which they needed, a blog or a website.)

Finally—and most importantly—it’s NOT blogging that increases visibility, it’s regularly updated, valuable content that does the most good. That can mean a site for podcasting, video blogs, really anything that is updated regularly.

The Bottom Line

There’s nothing wrong with deciding to pay for a website, it’s a personal choice. But that’s all it is, a choice. It does not make you less professional to use a free site. 

I’d love to hear from you. What are your thoughts (and/or questions) about blogging?

Featured Fiction: Jill Elizabeth Nelson

Today, we’re celebrating one of the authors who helped us make the Frasier Contest possible! Jill Elizabeth Nelson’s recent release is Shake Down from Love Inspired Romantic Suspense.

Q: Jill, can you tell us a little bit about your next book?

To clear his imprisoned father’s name, Shane Gillum must find evidence hidden in a Martha’s Vineyard cottage. But he arrives to find the “vacant” property being prepped for sale by real estate agent Janice Swenson. Is she tied to the notorious owners? Or is she in over her head as the “accidents” on the property grow increasingly dangerous? And who is the saboteur targeting—Shane with his search, or Janice with her dark, hidden past? With so much at stake, trusting Janice is a huge risk . . . but keeping silent about the cottage’s mysteries could mire them both in a deadly scheme.

Q: What is one piece of writing advice you’d give the MyBookTherapy community?

After a busy day at work, I love to go home and kill people. Murder and mayhem are my stock in trade. Of course, through great courage, wit, sacrifice, and faith, the good guys always take down the bad guys. Yes, I’m a writer. My specialty is novels of mystery and suspense . . . but I haven’t quit my day job. I’m a dual-career woman.

“How do you manage it?”

I reply with an analogy. Some folks go home after their eight hour day and do woodworking or needlepoint. I go home, hunker down with my laptop, and spin yarns. (Not yarn. I’m not a knitter.) The comparison provides an understandable frame of reference for someone not gripped by the compulsion to tell stories, but it’s not entirely accurate.

For me, writing moved beyond the hobby stage the day someone handed me a check for my words, and I quickly cashed it before they came to their senses. Now I wrestle with deadlines, marketing, synopses, proposals, conferences, appearances, and book-signings just like any other career writer. And I love it!

So how do I juggle a full time “day job” with a demanding “night life” as an author? Oh, and don’t forget, there’s family and church, friends and community in the mix too.





The writing life is hard, and it’s frustrating, and at times heart-breaking, but it offers a compelling and entertaining way to share my faith and encourage others (compassion). It’s also a fire in my bones—I can’t NOT write (at least not for long), and that adds up to calling. My word is my bond. When I have a contract, I need to meet my deadline (commitment). And if I’m going to fulfill my commitment, I must cultivate constancy. In other words, writing must be a daily part of my life.

Take these words to heart if they help you. Maybe even tack a sticky note to your computer with the words: Compassion, Calling, Commitment, and Constancy. Write on, dear friends!


Jill Elizabeth Nelson-SmallAward-winning author and writing teacher, Jill Elizabeth Nelson, writes what she likes to read—tales of adventure seasoned with romance, humor, and faith. Jill enjoys speaking at conferences, writers groups, library associations, civic and church groups. She delights to bring the “Ahah! Moment” to students as they make new skills their own. Her bestselling handbook for writers, Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View, is available at http://amzn.to/IvQTkj. Visit Jill on the web at: www.jillelizabethnelson.com or look her up on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/JillElizabethNelson.Author. Her most recent release is Shake Down from Love Inspired Romantic Suspense.