Taylor University Professional Writing conference 2017

Taylor University Professional Writing Conference 2017

The second annual Taylor University Professional Writing Conference was held on the beautiful campus of Taylor University this past Friday and Saturday. The value of concentrated and intentional time spent in the company of other writers cannot be overrated – it is invaluable. I now find myself wandering around like a lost pup wishing I had one more bone to chew with my writing friends, old and new.
Key note speaker was Bob Hostetler, an award-winning writer of more than 47 books, editor, literary agent, pastor and speaker from southwestern Ohio (learn more about Bob here: http://www.bobhostetler.com/aboutbob/).  As a writer and a Christian, Bob was able to encourage us and challenge us as only a fellow Christian writer could.
Other highlights included author/agent/editor panels and, of course, top-notch teaching, with multiple sessions geared toward specific attendee needs, from a selection of Publishing 101 courses for relative beginners to humor writing to marketing. See below for a complete list of Faculty and Speakers.
There were, of course, a number of opportunities to meet with authors, editors and agents in one-on-one sessions to pitch books, ask specific advice, and network. I met with Michelle Israel Harper, acquisitions editor at Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing (www.love2readlove2writepublishing.com).  L2L2 is a publishing house that deals specifically with Christian speculative fiction and that’s right up my Diagon Alley!
Whether you are a struggling new writer or a successful multi-published author, there is something for you at the Taylor University Professional Writing Conference. Save the date for next year: August 3 and 4, 2018!

Faculty/Speakers included: James Watkins (ACW Press), Rachael O. Phillips (author, columnist and very funny lady), Cindy Sproles (Lighthouse publishing of the Carolinas), Lin Johnson (Christian Communicator and Write-to-Publish Conference Director), Katie Long (Wesleyan Publishing House), Michelle Israel Harper (Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing), Estee Zandee (Zondervan), Rebekah Blomenberg (Annie’s Publishing), Kate Jameson (Focus on the Family), Dawn Anderson (Kregel Publications), Lawrence W. Wilson (DustJacket Books), Chip MacGregor (MacGregor Literary, Inc), Linda Glaz (Hartline Literary Agency), and Dr. Dennis E. “Doc” Hensley (author of gazillions of books and articles, and Creator/Director of Taylor University’s Professional Writing Program).

Of Power and Potties

The power was out today. According to the electric company, it was out for 30,000 people. My daughter, a high school sophomore, was delighted to get out of school early. I don’t know how the other 29,998 people felt about it, but I took the opportunity to ponder life before internet, electric lights and flush toilets.

The internet part would be sort of easy to deal with, at least in the short term, unless you’re trying to book reservations at the new restaurant downtown. Or if you’re waiting to hear from a potential agent about whether or not they liked your proposal. Or if that acquaintance you haven’t heard from in a gazillion years might happen to pick that moment to post an update to Facebook.
I like to camp, so we own a broad assortment of flashlights and propane lanterns. I think we even have at least one Harry Potter wand with a light-up tip, so I could probably go a fairly long time without electric lights.
Flush toilets, though, that’s a tough one. We live in the country and our water comes out of a well in the yard, just like in the old times. Except that in modern times you can’t get water out of it without an electric pump. Hence, no electric means no handy-dandy toity. Even us regular campers have our limits…having to do my business in the forest would be just on the other side of mine.
So when I began musing about medieval versions of potties, I remembered a photo I took on a visit to Dover Castle this past June. Those large structures bumping out on the sides of the donjon tower walls aren’t there for architectural flair – they’re the castle version of poop chutes. (Notice that little hole at the bottom in the photo below? More on that later.)
Inside these little “privies” (also known as garderobes or wardrobes) is a bench with a hole in the center. No need to explain how they work. But it seems that at one time these little alcoves might serve not only as a place to relieve one’s self, but also to store one’s valuables. After all, if someone wanted your jewels, where else would you keep them?
It was also common to store cloaks and tights in the garderobe. Apparently they thought the often-strong odors emanating from the hole in the seat would keep fleas and moths out of their clothing. It would keep me out of them, too.
Now back to that little hole at the bottom of the architectural flair. You might have noticed that it doesn’t lead into any plumbing. (They didn’t have plumbing.) Yep – it just went right into the moat, or perhaps a little cesspit right next to the moat. Either way, there was usually a well in the center of the castle grounds and….
Well, I’ll leave the rest of that thought for you to finish.

Taylor University Professional Writing Conference 2016

It has been just over a week since the conclusion of the first annual Taylor University Professional Writing Conference, hosted by the Taylor University Professional Writing Program. Kudos to Linda Taylor, Doc (Dennis) Hensley and their capable student staff for a first rate conference that didn’t break my bank.
The two-day event featured guest speakers Dennis E. Hensley (author, speaker and writing professor), author and speaker Jim Watkins, and Keren Baltzer, editor at Hachette Book Group.  Workshops were led by Rachel Phillips (my very funny friend and multi-published author), Ann Byle, Nichole Parks (not to be confused with Nicholas Sparks!), Amy Green, Estee Wells Zandee, Dan Balow and several others. There was truly something for everyone, no matter their level of experience or success, their writing genre, or their age.  
For more information on this year’s workshop experts, or to get info on next year’s conference, click here: https://taylorsprofessionalwritersconference.wordpress.com/

Maid to be a Bride

Out now!

When Lady Daphne Battencourt’s uncle arranges for her to marry a wealthy, but vulgar, tradesman, she is resigned to her fate as the token wife of a heartless man. But after she realizes she would rather spend her life in service than marry without love, she finds herself in the role of lady’s maid to the mother of a very handsome gentleman. Unfortunately,  Mr. Mattingly is already betrothed. Only Daphne’s rekindled faith can help her find her way.

“Maid to be a Bride by Jan Wallace Reber is a captivating romance that contrasts the best and worst aspects of England’s Regency period. Modern readers will savor this story in which courageous Lady Daphne Battencourt and chivalrous Jules Mattingly battle cultural pressures, unfair inheritance laws, and evil manipulators to affirm their faith and ​their love.”

  – Rachael Phillips, Author of Guilty Treasures, Recipe for Deception, and several biographies.

Read an excerpt of  MAID TO BE A BRIDE

      The heavy, ornately carved door of the study was closed. Ever since Uncle took her father’s place as the Earl of Claremont, many rooms of her home were now closed to her. Lady Daphne Battencourt tried to calm her nerves, but it was never good when Uncle summoned her. She reached toward the doorknob, then shrank from it. What if Uncle was cross for her question at dinner when saw him three days prior? What if he was drinking?
      She tried not to even think about the possibilities. There was nothing to be done for it, now. She wanted a London season. She’d been preparing her entire life for her presentation to society, for her chance to be admired and courted. For her turn to take the stage before the ton and make her mark.
      All of the dancing and music lessons and—goodness, yes, the etiquette training that had been drilled into her from the age of five—would all be for nothing if she wasn’t launched into society. So, she’d taken the risk of asking for his permission to go to Great Aunt Persephone.
      The old woman was as mean as a snake, but loved nothing more than to show off her connections to the beau monde. She’d gladly ensure that the daughter of her nephew, the Earl of Claremont, made a good showing in the London social scene. If he was angry about it, she would have to bear his retribution. There was no way to retract the request.
      She put her hand on the crystal knob but pulled it back yet again, and bit her lower lip. She could not simply walk into his sanctuary as she always had with Papa. She tried, in vain, to force herself to relax, and knocked twice.
      “Enter,” commanded the gruff voice on the other side of the door.
      She took a deep breath, then turned the knob and pushed the door open as silently as its massive hinges would allow. Uncle was standing in front of a blazing fire with a half empty glass in his hand.
      Daphne eyed the glass warily. “Hello, Uncle.” She gave him the deep curtsy he expected of her. ”You asked to see me?”
      His eyes swept over her, lingering on her bodice, and she pulled her shawl tighter around her shoulders, hoping he didn’t feel the power he had to make her shiver under his gaze. Without answering, he went to the small sideboard and wrapped his stout fingers around the neck of a crystal decanter, then pulled off the glass stopper and refilled his glass of brandy.
      “How old are you?” He drained the glass in only two gulps.
      “I’ll be eighteen in just two months, in July,” she stammered.
      “Tell me, Daphne, what is the purpose of a London season for a young woman such as yourself?”
      “Excuse me, sir?” her voice faltered and she swallowed hard. “I do not understand the question, Uncle.” She clenched her hands together until her fingertips began to go numb. He was provoking her. Again. Must she always be on guard in her own home?
      “Come, now. You’re supposed to be a bright young woman. What is it young women want from their first season?”
      She tried to ignore the growing slur in his speech. “Well, I suppose a young lady would like to make a good match.” Or so mother had always instructed her.
      “To find a suitable husband, then, hmm?” He turned to look at her with brows raised.
      Should she should simply agree?—or add that the season was also about the balls and the gowns and being admired and dancing and being presented at court…and that if she did find a husband, she could leave Uncle for good—.
      He cut into her train of thought. “But what sort of match would a girl like you hope to make, hmm? A girl whose family is hiding a nasty little secret?” He squinted one eye at her.
      “I cannot know what you mean, sir. We have no secret.” Her mind raced to find some hint as to what he meant, but there was nothing. She had always been close to both of her parents. What sort of secret could possibly be unknownto her but known to Uncle?
      “Surely you know about your father, do you not?”
      Papa? Papa was perfect in every way. What could Uncle know that she did not? “Still, sir, I don’t understand what you mean. What about my father?”
      “Perhaps you should have asked your mother that question before she died and left you to wonder.”
      “Wonder about Papa? Do you imply that she—that my father—“ The idea was too absurd to voice it. Of all possible revelations, that one she could not, would not, accept.
      I am simply saying that your mother had many admirers and that, well, you know how it can be when a beautiful woman gets lonely. When her husband is gone for days or weeks at a time.”
      No words came to her. She just stood there with her mouth open in shock, drawing quick, shallow breaths. Uncle’s implication was inconceivable!
      “You remember your mother’s dear friend, Duncan, do you not? He visited quite frequently, as I recall. Did he ever stay with you and your mother while your father was away on business?”
      “Yes, but Uncle Duncan—“                   
      And what about your mother’s cousin? Her French cousin? What was his name?”
      “Roland Thierry, but he was the same age as mother. Of course they were close.” This entire conversation was preposterous. Uncle must surely be mistaken.
      “Her cousin? Really? Or did she just call him cousin, like you called Duncan ‘uncle’ when you know very well that I’m your only uncle? It’s almost as if the man wanted to hang around and see you grow up.” He used a fingernail to pick at his tooth, then sucked his tongue against the spot.
      Daphne put her fingers to her lips and gasped. “No! That cannot be true. Mother loved Papa very much. She would never—” Her throat went suddenly dry and she couldn’t choke out the rest of her thought. How could any of this be true? How could Papa not be her papa?           
      “We all want to believe the best about our family, Daphne. But sometimes the truth is our enemy. That being the case, you should be quite glad to know that I have taken care of the matter and have, in addition, saved what is left of your poor departed papa’s fortune from all of the frivolous frippery that goes with a debut season.”

Sword of the Fairvern

My full length medieval time travel romance is finally available on Amazon.com! Available in digital and paperback format!

Sword of the Fairvern 

Time can be good or bad, depending on whether you’re going forward or backward…
Chevelle Delamar was known in the 21st century as the girl who shouldn’t have lived. Colwyn, Lord Beaumarche, is a 14thcentury knight with a passionate hatred for his father and a distrust of women who show up at his castle uninvited.  When a medieval sword sends Chevelle right into Colwyn’s battle against his father, she follows her heart down a path that will change both of their futures—if only they can leave their pasts behind.  
Get your copy today, and don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon if you like it!   Buy Now
All cover artwork and design copyright Deanna Breunig 2015


Life is like…

Life is like…an ice cream cone
Snow is flying here in central Indiana, which, strangely enough, makes me think of ice cream. Well, maybe it isn’t so strange, since ice cream is one of my favorite things. I especially love soft serve twist cones, the ones that are half chocolate and half vanilla.
I love the way the creamy sweetness melts on your tongue, coating it in cool yumminess.  Sometimes I like to lick around and around the outside, catching the little drips just before they spill over the cone. Sometimes I can’t be that patient and I take a big bite out of the top (which invariably gives me a hammerhead).
I think life is like that cone. Sometimes we want to lick it slowly and make it last, and sometimes we want to jump in and take a big bite.
I want to savor every moment of my daughters’ lives, to enjoy every choir concert and college break and movie snuggled under a blanket. I want to slow down those moments when we sit by the fire and don’t say anything because we just enjoy each other’s company, and the noisy dinners where everyone is talking about their day. At those times, I want to just lick the cone of life a little at a time and make it last forever.
But when it comes to my mother, I can’t be satisfied with a lick. I adore my mom and I think she likes me a little bit, too (!). But I know that she’s getting older every year and, like an ice cream cone in summer, I can’t keep her forever no matter how I wish it were otherwise. So I want to take big selfish bites of the time I have with her so I can savor them long after the she’s gone. I hope that someday my girls will look at time with me in the same way.
So, are you a licker or a biter? Or, like me, are you a little bit of both?

Scrivener – Ya Gotta Love It

It may surprise those of you who know me personally, but I’ve written four novels. None of them are published yet, but that’s coming. I just know it.
And recently, I have a new secret weapon for writing the next breakout novel (!), and I want to share it with you. For anyone who writes regularly—anything from blog posts to novels–let me recommend an awesome little software program known as Scrivener (@ScrivenerApp).
Unlike word processors which essentially exist to record your words, Scrivener is designed to help you record your thoughts AND your words. It works the way my mind does, gathering bits of information here and there as my stories evolve. But unlike my brain, it keeps all of the information in a place where I can actually find it when I want it later. It’s like the big three-ring binders I used to use, but a whole lot faster and more convenient.  
Scrivener has changed the way I write. The visual elements alone were, for me, revolutionary. There is a corkboard for little note cards, an outliner, templates for character sketches, and folders for recording information about scenes. I can clip and save photos, text, maps and more from the internet, or just record the link. There’s even a name generator that lets you choose information about the origin of the character.
The folder that contains my actual manuscript records chapter headings, chapter descriptions, scene and POV information and…wait for it…Scrivener can take all of the information and put it together into the correct manuscript format for a number of publishing goals. It will even produce a synopsis using meta-data you’ve entered for each chapter.
As of writing this post, the cost to purchase the full version of Scrivener for either Windows or Mac was only $40! If you aren’t certain Scrivener is for you, then you can get the free trial and take it for a test drive. I bet you’ll decide to stick with it. With National Novel Writing Month in full swing, can you afford NOT to have Scrivener?
A special thanks to KM Weiland (@kmweiland) for featuring Scrivener on her blog (http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com), and to Joseph Michael (@ScrivenerCoach) for his free Scrivener webinar (http://learnscrivenerfast.com/weiland-webinar-replay-2). It was a fantastic introduction to Scrivener for a newbie like me. You can learn more about Joseph Michael here (http://www.josephmichael.net).


I just returned from the First Annual Indiana Faith and Writing Conference (#IFWC2014) and it was, in a word, AWESOME. If you are anywhere in the midwestern US (or even if you aren’t), you’ll want to put this one on your schedule for next year.

Held on the campus of Anderson University in Anderson, Indiana, IFWC gave attendees the opportunity to sit under the tutelage of some of Christian publishing’s best known authors, agents and publishers. We also had an opportunity to learn from bloggers and social media experts, tax experts and pastors.

How’s this for an impressive list?

Dennis E. (Doc) Hensley
Linda Taylor
Amanda Luedeke
Linda Glaz
Michelle Medlock Adams
Nate Pyle
Terry Whalin
Ken Abraham
Jim Watkins
Lin Johnson
Les Stobbe
Cara Miller
Deborah Fox
Katie Ganshert
Sarah Wells
Phillip Gulley
Keith Williams
Elizabeth Imafuji
Stephen Lewis
Craig Bubeck
Carol Topp
Lawrence Wilson 
(Let me know if I left anyone out!)

While conference attendance was smaller than some I have attended, Anderson University faculty and staff put on a very nice event and I expect it will continue to grow for several years to come.

Now if I can just figure out what the whole ### thing means…

One of my Favs: Mark Nichol’s Daily Writing Tips

One of my favorite internet subscriptions is to DAILY WRITING TIPS. I signed up for the e-mail version over a year ago, and have loved it. Today’s post is a good example of why I so appreciate this daily writing lesson. Being from Indiana, where the English language seems to be, shall we say, a work in progress, today’s tip was especially useful. (Since I’m promoting his site, I hope creator Mark Nichol doesn’t mind that I repost this one entry.)  Be certain to visit his site and get your own subscription – he’ll even send you a free basic English grammar e-book!

Here was today’s tip:

Is That Even a Word?

by Mark Nichol

No authoritarian authority exists that determines whether a given word is valid or bogus. In any language, there’s a complex and imperfect vetting procedure; at least in English, most serious writers agree on the correct or preferred form of a word that is one of two or more variants or on whether a word is acceptable at all. Here’s a list of words that have been under scrutiny in this approval process:
1. Administrate: A back-formation of administration and an unnecessary extension of administer
2. Commentate: A back-formation of commentator and an unnecessary extension of comment
3. Dimunition: Erroneous; the correct form is diminution (think of diminutive)
4. Exploitive: A younger, acceptable variant of exploitative
5. Firstly: As with secondly and thirdly, erroneous when enumerating points; use first and so on
6. Heighth: Rarely appears in print, but a frequent error in spoken discourse (Why isn’t height modeled on the form of depth, length, and width? Because it doesn’t shift in spelling and pronunciation from its associated term, tall, like the others, which are derived from deep, long, and wide, do. Neither do we say or write weighth.)
7. Irregardless: An unnecessary extension of regardless on the analogy of irrespective but ignoring that regardless, though it is not an antonym of regard, already has an antonymic affix
8. Miniscule: A common variant of minuscule, but widely considered erroneous
9. Orientate: A back-formation of orientation and an unnecessary extension of orient
10. Participator: Erroneous; the correct form is participant
11. Preventative: A common and acceptable variant of preventive
12. Societal: A variant of social with a distinct connotation (for example, “social occasion,” but “societal trends”)
13. Supposably: An erroneous variant of supposedly
14. ’Til: Also rendered til and till, an clipped form of until that is correct but informal English; use the full word except in colloquial usage
15. Undoubtably: An erroneous variant of undoubtedly

They say writing is a journey. And it is…on so many levels. There is the journey of telling a story from start to finish, and going from thinking you’d like to write a book to becoming a published author. There’s the journey that writing takes you on as a person, a journey to find the “real you.” And all of those are important and a big part of writing. But for me, the best journey of all is the one my stories take me on. The journey I travel as I write and get to visit foreign lands and ancient times and future worlds. The journey that I set off on every time I sit down to write or come back later to read what I’ve written. I love to write novels because I get to go on the same journey as a writer that I go on when I read a good book. The only difference – and it’s a big one – is that I get to decided where the journey will take me next. And that’s the best part of all.