Monday, October 26, 2015

Comma Happy

Do you use too many commas? I lean in that direction, and it's always evident during the revision process. How is it that something so small can have such great power? As you know, commas indicate a natural pause and help the reader better comprehend our content. They facilitate a satisfying and enjoyable reading experience.

Here's the comma "cheat sheet" I use to keep things straight Maybe you will find it useful too.  

Use a comma to separate adjectives that equally modify a noun. 

Susan was afraid of the big, creepy spiders in the shed. 

To determine if the adjectives equally modify the noun, switch them around. If the sentence is still clear, then they modify equally. 

Susan was afraid of the creepy, big spiders in the shed. 

Use a comma between items in a series. 

Maybelle brought chips, pickles, and potato salad to the picnic. 

Do not use commas when words are separated by or, nor, or and. 

Louise washed the car and hung the laundry and watered the flowers. 

Use a comma to separate parenthetical elements in a sentence. 

Ryan entered the chapel, tardy as usual, and stood next to his bride. 

Use a comma to set off an appositive. An appositive is a word or phrase that explains something. It is not essential to the meaning of the sentence. 

Our vacation home, a rustic and cozy cabin, is located about an hour away. 

Use a comma after an introductory adverb clause. 

After the wedding, Ryan and Megan went on their honeymoon. 

Use a comma with an interjection or to set off an interruption. 

Hey, what am I supposed to do now?  Or,  For him, well, it's just better that way.   

For other comma facts, check out The Most Comma Mistakes by Ben Yagoda. 

Congratulations to C. Lee McKenzie, winner of Ann Gabhart's book giveaway! If you missed last week's fun interview, check it out here.

Are you comma happy? How's your comma quota? 

Happy writing,


Pumpkin basket photo credit: Free Images 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Mystery, Murder, and Favorites with Ann Gabhart

Ann Gabhart is back! I'm excited to help celebrate her latest release, Murder at the Courthouse. She's offered a copy to one of my followers, so please check out the giveaway details below.

Here's a peek at the back cover:  

After a few years as a police officer in Chicago, Michael Keane has no trouble relaxing into the far less stressful job of deputy sheriff in his small hometown. After all, nothing ever happens in Hidden Springs, Kentucky. Nothing, that is, until a dead body is discovered on the courthouse steps. Everyone in town is a little uneasy. Still, no one is terribly worried—after all the man was a stranger—until one of their own is murdered right on Main Street. 

As Michael works to solve the case it seems that every nosy resident in town has a theory. When the sheriff insists Michael check out one of these harebrained theories, his surprising discovery sends him on a bewildering search for a mysterious killer that has him questioning everything he has ever believed about life in Hidden Springs. 

Bringing with her a knack for creating settings you want to visit and an uncanny ability to bring characters to life, A. H. Gabhart pens a whodunit that will keep readers guessing. 

Ann and I thought it would be fun to ask her main character, Michael Keane, about some of his favorite things. This is how he replied:

Favorite food/s – Cindy’s pecan pies at the Hidden Springs Grill are hard to beat. Especially if you tell her to warm it up a little and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. If I ate that all the time, I’d have to work out twice as much. Then freshly caught fish from Eagle Lake fried in a skillet over an open fire when I’m camping out in rough country near the lake have to be on my favorite list. There’s just something extra good about eating fish you caught yourself while watching the sun sink down on the western horizon of the lake. 

Favorite beverage – I’m a police officer. That means coffee, black and strong, is as necessary as water. 

Favorite sport – I guess I’d have to say fishing. That counts as a sport, doesn’t it? I like getting out on the lake in my motor boat and throwing out a line. But I also have an old rowboat that I like to get in and slide out on the water. Especially early in the morning while the mist is lifting from the lake. The only noise is the dip of the paddles, the birds welcoming the sun, and sometimes a fish jumping up out of the water to try out the morning air and flopping back down with a little slap sound. 

Favorite piece of advice someone's offered over the years – Here’s something Aunt Lindy told me not too long ago after I moved back to Hidden Springs from Columbus, Ohio. “You young people are always in such a hurry you forget to notice what the good Lord is doing in your life. The Lord wants you right here in Hidden Springs.” I don’t know if I could call that my favorite piece of advice, but it is something that I have to consider. I don’t want to be in too big a hurry to notice the blessings of my days. I do feel as if I belong in Hidden Springs. That makes some problems for me since the girl I’ve loved since we were kids thinks a town like Hidden Springs is the last place she wants to be. 

Favorite quote – My Aunt Lindy shared Lamentations 3:22-23 with me years ago. It’s the verse she read over and over while I was in a coma after the terrible accident that killed my parents and almost killed me. She said she read this every morning as she prayed for me. 

It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. 

Hard not to have that be a favorite since I’ve always been sure it was Aunt Lindy’s love and prayers that pulled me out of the black abyss I was in and gave me a second chance at life. 

Favorite hobby – There is that fishing I’ve already mentioned. But I also like to delve into the history of the Civil War. Some of my great, ever so great uncles fought in the war. Not all on the same side. They were brothers divided by the war. Now I read Civil War histories and collect Civil War weapons. I’ve taken part in some of the Civil War re-enactments. The last one I did, I was a Union soldier like my Uncle Pascal. I was one of the soldiers who charged the enemy line and didn’t make it home. So for most of the re-enactment, I was playing dead on the field of battle.

Favorite way to relax – I guess I’d have to say being out in that rowboat with my dog, Jasper. Or sometimes just sitting on the porch of my log house as night falls with the whippoorwills calling and Jasper asleep beside me. Of course, Jasper wakes up when the coyotes start yipping and howling. 

Favorite season – I like all the seasons down on the lake, but Spring and Fall might be my favorites. Winter is good too, but if too much snow falls, it makes responding to emergency calls when I’m off duty difficult. I want to be there ASAP for the citizens of Hidden Springs and Keane County if they have a need for police protection.

Favorite thing about Hidden Springs – I like that people know one another. It’s a good thing to walk down the street and greet friends and neighbors by name. It’s like a big town family. That’s not to say we all love one another in Hidden Springs or even all get along. Many extended families have plenty of disagreements among their members at times. So do we in Hidden Springs, but in times of trouble, folks step up and help one another out.

Thanks for inviting Michael over for an interview, Karen. Now he’s going fishing! 

Thanks for stopping by and allowing Michael to share with us, Ann. :) Wishing you continued success with your books!  

    About Ann 

A.H. Gabhart is Ann H. Gabhart, bestselling author of many novels, including Love Comes Home, the 2015 Selah Book of Year winner and her popular Shaker novels. She also writes about family life, love and now mystery in small towns like the one in Kentucky where she grew up. She and her husband have three children and nine grandchildren and still enjoy country life on a farm near that small town, but she’s happy to report that nobody was ever murdered on her hometown’s courthouse steps. To find out more about Ann’s books or to read her blog, visit:

Ann's Website
Ann on Facebook
Purchase Murder at the Courthouse 

Giveaway Details

Ann is giving away one paperback copy of Murder at the Courthouse. To enter, please note the following:   

1) Open to U.S. residents only.  
2) Please leave your email address. 
3) You must be a Google Friend Connect Follower of Write Now (on sidebar). 
4) Giveaway ends Friday, October 23 at noon Eastern Daylight Time. Winner will be contacted via email and have 36 hours to respond or another name will be chosen.  

What's your favorite way to spend free time? Have any questions for Ann?

Happy reading and writing,


Monday, October 12, 2015

Bringing the Heat! 4 Ways Cooking Shows Inspire by Jennifer Brown Banks

Jennifer Brown Banks shares her insight in this savvy and savory guest post. When you're finished reading, join Jennifer and me for some virtual pie, okay? :) 

Bringing the Heat! 4 Ways Cooking Shows can Inspire and Inform Today’s Writers

By Jennifer Brown Banks

When most of us think about education to improve our craft as writers, that automatically translates into books and online courses designed to improve our communication skills, and teach us literary techniques to help construct better stories.

But, as a big fan of cooking shows and competitions, I can attest that these culinary programs can provide a smorgasbord of valuable lessons that will enable today’s writers to become more strategic, resourceful, creative and results-oriented.

And a side bonus here: you can “eat into“ your profits.

Accordingly, here are a few cooking-related practices and principles you’ll want to incorporate in your writing career for hotter results!



For cooks and aspiring chefs, this includes having a well-organized, well-stocked kitchen area, washing meats and vegetables that go into the meals beforehand, and reading product directions. For writers, this could consist of drafting an outline, composing a query letter, mental focus, or reading a publication’s submission guidelines before sending work.


No matter how skilled, when cooking competition contestants are not organized, or fail to plan ahead, they waste valuable time, become frazzled, and perform poorly due to excessive stress. And you know what they say about “If you can’t stand the heat in the kitchen…“ The same holds true for writers. Particularly those who operate with half-baked ideas, lack a business plan, or expect success without first formulating clear short and long-term goals. They become starving artists and quit before ever reaching their full potential. Don’t let it be you.



Most of the individuals that emerge as winners with these competitions, I’ve found, are those who take their mother or grandma’s recipes and tweak them to perfection. They’re not afraid to experiment (and temporarily fail) in order to arrive at just the right combination, to yield a “killer” recipe and distinguish themselves from the wannabes.


Be inspired by others, but don’t copy. Study the prominent writers in your chosen genre. What are their strengths? Their techniques? Their draw? Apply, but modify.



My weekly line-up of cooking shows includes every race, ethnicity, gender, and even food type for a well-rounded experience. I dig Ming Tsai for Asian cuisine, Lidia for Italian cooking, Patti’s Mexican table, Barbeque University, Chef Jeff for a little soul, and Michael Smith for American grub. They’re all different. But, you know what they collectively have in common? They all concentrate on one particular area of food preparation in establishing their expertise. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve seen them give their interpretation of other dishes outside of their wheelhouse. Some can even whip up some mean and decadent desserts! But basically, they have a laser-like focus on one type of food style.


Pick a creative passion. Hone it. Own it. There’s great validity to the expression, “Jack of all trades and master of none.”



When all is said and done, proper execution is the yardstick by which all other efforts will be measured and judged. Contestants who have been strategic, smart, attentive, and have cultivated well-developed palates in the process, are able to prepare and beautifully plate meals that appeal to the judges; meeting the requirements for successful advancement to heading or owning their own restaurants.


Execute by sending your best work out. Let it simmer before serving. Pay attention to the advice and input of editors, reviewers, readers and publishers. Yet, recognize that everything that you create will not suit everyone’s taste.

By following these timely tips, you’ll become a more well-rounded, hearty writer who’s really cooking!

About Jennifer 

Jennifer Brown Banks is an award-winning blogger, ghost writer and columnist. If you’d like more tips and tools to hone your craft and increase your cash, visit Jennifer’s award-winning site at Pen and Prosper

Thanks for sharing, Jennifer! 

What lessons have you learned from the kitchen? Does food inspire your writing? 

Happy writing,

Photo credit: Free Images, Nancy Lowrie

Monday, October 5, 2015

Meet the Blogger with Susanne Dietze

If it were not for blogging, Susanne Dietze and I might not have met. And that would be a shame, for she is a sweet person through and through. This talented writer is also a fan of historical  fiction, so much so that she's written several delightful novellas. (More info on those below.)

Welcome Susanne! Why did you start blogging? How long have you had your current blog? 

Thanks for inviting me! Back in 2008, I was invited to participate in a group blog, Inkwell Inspirations. I was honored and thrilled—but also terrified, because I had no idea how to use blogger. I started Tea and a Good Book so I could practice in private, and my mistakes wouldn’t affect other people’s reputations! 

That's quite an honor. I'd have been nervous too! What is your blog about? 

It’s about reading, writing, and faith, but it’s also about friendship with my readers. That means I treat it as if I’m sitting with a friend over coffee or tea, chatting. I like to share books I’ve read, talk about entertainment, or offer recipes I love—things my non-writing friends might enjoy. But on occasion, I share writing-specific topics, too. 

When visiting your blog, I do feel like we are sitting and chatting. :) What benefits have you gained through blogging? 

God gave me a tremendous gift when He gave me an opportunity to blog. I made new e-friends. I gained confidence as I improved. Having a social media presence is pretty important in the writing industry, and blogging opened new worlds to me. 

This is so true - you nailed it, from the wonderful people to the importance of social media. What projects are you working on right now? 

I am writing a contracted novella and preparing for my two releases in early 2016—both novellas. First up is my Genesis-winning One Word From You, a Pride & Prejudice story in The Austen in Austin Collection from WhiteFire, where Jane Austen novels are retold, set in historical Austin, TX. Coming in March is The Cowboy’s Bride Collection from Barbour, which celebrates romance in the Old West. I am so proud to be part of these collections! 

Congratulations! That is exciting news. Looking forward to reading them. What might people be surprised to learn about you? 

Hmm…that’s a toughie. Well, I was not blessed with a good singing voice, to which everyone who sits around me in church can probably attest, but I sing all the time at home. Real songs, but mostly made up stuff. Reminding kids to empty the dishwasher seems to go better when it’s delivered in song. 

Well this is true, chores and songs can make a good combo! What advice would you share with a newbie blogger? 

Be yourself. God made you to fit that role, and your blog should reflect who you are and what you do. You’ll enjoy it much more if you get to be yourself, too! 

Excellent advice. :) Thank you for stopping by to see us, Susanne. It's been a pleasure! 

Thank you, Karen! 

About Susanne

Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she writes in the hope that her historical romances will encourage and entertain others. A 2013 Genesis Award winner and a member of ACFW and RWA, she is the author of four contracted novellas. You can visit her on her website,

Find Susanne  

Amazon Author Page 

Susanne's first release, The Most Eligible Bachelor Collection is available here:  

Barnes and Noble 
Christian Book

Do you think that your blog (or writing) reflects your personality?

Happy writing,

Teacup photo credit: Free Images