In a few short days, Nanowrimo will begin. If you aren’t aware, National Novel Writing Month is an annual challenge where over 300,000 writers band together to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November.

If it sounds a bit crazy, that’s because it is.

But it’s not impossible. I can assure you that, as I’ve done it three times. It’s proven, for me, a great way to blow some dust off my brain, try out an idea that’s been simmering for a while, and practice generating raw word-count output. Here are a few tips I’ve gathered from my three years of Nanowrimo-ing.


Autumn has always felt like the true beginning of a new year for me, after years of back-to-school programming. So it follows that fall is a perfect time to start something new in my writing, especially with Nanowrimo coming up again in just over a month.
Now, you might be what they call a “Pantser” and enjoy seeing where your story takes you as you go. But even if you are the pantsiest pantser in the world, you still want to have some idea where your story is going. And if you’re a die-hard plotter, then you’ll really like these steps to creating a new plot.

The other day I was doing a written interview via email regarding my books. The questions were the usual: “How did you get into writing?”, “Where does your inspiration come from?”, etc. But there’s always that inevitable question (though this time it was “off the record”): “How do you find the time to write with FOUR KIDS??”

It’s a question I get asked often, and a question I don’t have a perfect answer to. The easy answer is I just do. But in the interest of helping other parents have hope for their writing dreams in the midst of kid-chaos, I put some thought into how I make it work. It helps that this is in the forefront of my mind, with all four of my kiddos home from school for the summer.  Here are my five tips for writing with children.

Ever get to the place in your writing where you just want to play it safe? I think every writer gets there. Doesn’t every writer have a manuscript that’s too blah because you were too scared to go where you should have gone? Or a manuscript that’s gathering dust because you’re too scared for anyone to read it?

But staying in the safe zone stifles your writing. Risk brings your work to life. Here are some leaps of faith to take your writing to the next level.


Here’s another excerpt from my current work in progress, Everdream.  Let me know what you think!

Light painted photogaph of the Biltmore House

It always irked Kynan to answer his father’s summons, especially after they’d quarrelled—to bow low in obeisance and follow form when within he screamed to break loose and rage.

Still, he knew his place, and he bowed though every nerve in his body strained to rebel.  “My king,” he said evenly, though his voice ached to shout otherwise.

With a flick of his hand, Father dismissed his courtiers.  They left his counsel chamber so quickly it might have been by magic, and they were alone, father and son, in heavy silence pregnant with anger and injury.

“My son.”  His words were quiet, tired and sad.  Tinged with regret.  But regret for what?  That he was burdened with such a son?  Kynan’s eyes stung, though they remained mercifully dry.  “Lyr brings me troubling news.”

Kynan turned his head aside and down, clenching his jaw.  He’d known, of course, that his every word to Lyr would reach the ears of the king.  But he’d not expected it so soon.  He forced his eyes back to meet his father’s, looking steadily and unflinchingly back in stony silence.  Whether he spoke or not, he knew what would come.

If the king was disconcerted by Kynan’s forthright gaze, he didn’t show it.  “Perhaps I have been overlong in keeping secrets from you.”

Kynan’s eyes goggled.  Was this an admission of error?  It would be wholly out of his father’s character.

Father went on.  “You are clearly of an age when keeping all mention of Everdream from you is not enough.  It is time you knew one thing, at least—Everdream is dangerous.”

Kynan listened, trying to feign hardened disinterest, but failing.

Father leaned forward in his great chair, spreading his hands on the table.  A stray gleam of late afternoon sunlight from the tall windows glinted on the ruby of his signet ring.  “Your mother…” He closed his eyes for along moment.  Was that frustration that drew his brows together?  “The queen—she is lost.  Lost in a land of terrors and shadows.”

The idea of Mother wandering lost, afraid and in danger sparked in Kynan a vital courage that he’d rarely known.  “Then we—“

Father shook his head impatiently.  “No.  Others—your betters—have tried and failed.  She is lost.”  

His words echoed between them in the silent room and Kynan closed his mouth, gritting his teeth.  

“I need to know you understand.  That you will obey my will in this.  Everdream is dangerous.  You must never go there.  I forbid it.”

Kynan stared at his father, tense with rage.  How could Father simply abandon her to her fate?  If there were anything they could do, then shouldn’t they?  How could he give up?

Something fell into place in that moment, like a tumbler in a lock.  Like a sword into its sheath.  What was until now only a fleeting thought, a passing fancy, suddenly became Kynan’s world.  Even if all else in the world—from the lowliest foot soldier to the king himself—forsook the queen, Kynan would not.  He must go to Everdream and bring back his mother.  No rule of law, no lapse of courage, no fear of death could hold him back now.

I’m thinking it’s about time I shared with you a little of my current work in progress.  It’s pure fantasy, likely more suitable for the Young Adult genre.  Please let me know what you think, and more importantly if it’s worth putting more on the blog.


He didn’t run.  Running was what he would have done five years ago or more.  But running didn’t befit a prince of the blood, nor the future king of Tyernas.  Neither did sulking—the fleeting thought, voiced in his father’s deep tones, bounced around his mind.  Instead, he stalked.  Head held high, thin shoulders back and square, as broad as he could make them, pace measured and strides firm and long.  Fists clenched at his side and jaw muscles bunched.  Hot tears burned in his throat like whitefire but didn’t dare trespass into his eyes.

He went where he always went, through the winter-bare gardens, his footsteps crunching on the fine gravel of the walk, a lone scrap of scarlet adrift in a world of steel grey.  The queen’s pavilion loomed up, white-domed and cold amid the bones of leafless trees.  As he passed the guards flanking the door they moved in salute, but he paid them no more heed than if they were motionless statues.  One of them opened the door at his approach, and the cold wintry light played over the polished silver trees inlaid in the smooth wood, flashing on rose quartz blossom and jade leaf that made a cheerful mockery of winter’s desolation of the real gardens.  

The cold air had cooled his fire somewhat.  Now he realized how cold it had been as the warmth of the pavilion embraced him.  The door fell shut behind him and he stood for a moment, all his rage melting away in a pool of sadness.

Inside all was quiet and still, but the stillness was not calm.  It was alive with grief, with loneliness as heavy as the massive stones that formed the castle walls.  And Kynan had brought it all here.

“Leave us.”  His voice echoed rasping against the rotunda’s smooth walls and returned.  Smoothly, the four ladies in waiting left their chairs at the four compass points of the room and vanished into the side rooms, their slippered feet shuffling on the stone floor.  The echo of the door’s thump and latch told him he was alone now.  

Kynan moved forward into the rotunda, the ceiling opening out in a wealth of white light pouring in through the oculus window, illuminating the pastoral scenes painted on the inside of the dome and embroidered in the tapestries hanging on the walls, and falling in a blinding shaft on the great bed in the centre of the room.  It should have felt light and airy, but the grand chamber felt oppressive instead, like a tomb.  The soft fragrance borne on the smoke of the braziers smelled to him as cloying as funeral incense.  

It was a fitting comparison.  This was as good as a tomb.  The perfume might as well be incense.  And the body laid out on the grand bed, veiled by gauzy white curtains embroidered in flowers, was little better than a corpse.  A corpse that never decayed, but just as vacant.  Just as useless.

He moved closer, to get a better view, though nothing would have changed since yesterday.  Nothing had changed in the past ten years in this room.  She still lay as she had when he’d found her asleep beyond all hope of wakening.  Ageless, her young face was still barely lined, her light brown hair untouched by grey.  Like a flower encased in ice, she was frozen in time.  He drew aside the curtain and sat on the edge of the bed.  Her arm dipped slightly with the motion, limp as a doll’s.  She breathed.  Her eyes moved beneath the lids.  Someone had washed her and dressed her in a clean gown of white silk that morning, had laid her silver crown on her belly in the likeness of a tomb effigy.

The Eversleep, Lyr had called it, when they’d first found her like this.  The old knight had pulled Kynan away, then only a boy of five and uncomprehending, while Father had leaned over the bed and tried to waken her.  The queen had gone to Everdream—a wild and beautiful place of endless dreaming—and when she might return, none could say.

The king had commanded her to be watched day and night, a ceaseless vigil lest she waken and find herself alone.  But though the vigil continued for ten long years, the king had turned to the rule of his kingdom and left the queen to slumber on, changeless as he changed.  Father had forgotten her, it seemed.  But Kynan had not.

“Mother,” he whispered.  His voice echoed back in a wordless rustle. 


John Mackilligen is a Covenanter, an illegal Scottish Presbyterian minister in a time when anti-Anglican sentiment is considered treason. Can he hold to his promise even if it means he could lose everything he has—including his freedom and his life?

Over a century later, his kinsman, William McKillican, pastors a Congregational flock. But when his people are displaced to make room for sheep, he must decide whether to follow them to the backwoods of Canada with all its hardships, or leave them alone in the wilderness.

Inspired by the example of her grandfather, Jennie McKillican, a spinster nurse, embarks on the greatest adventure yet—a mission to China. Yet in the midst of spiritual revival, a threat arises that could endanger the lives of every Christian in the country.

Three true stories. Three different centuries. Three generations woven together in a living chain…calling to each other Across the Deep.

“He would have been proud of you, Janet,” Pa said, turning to her at last, running his long fingers over his bushy white beard.

“Grandfather?” she clarified, though she knew of whom he spoke.

He nodded. “He knew what it was to sacrifice, to give himself for the cause of Christ.”

“I wish I had known him,” she said wistfully.

“Aye, he was a great man,” Pa said, and Jennie wondered if he could see his father in memory, striding through the door after a long ride, seated at the head of the table, propped up in his bed at the last. Jennie could see her own past—the cheerful voices of children at play. This house was strong with memories. Even the logs in the walls breathed coolness, as though they remembered still the shade of their vanished forest home. “A great man,” Pa repeated softly. “But you don’t have to have known him in life to know who he was.”

It was true. She had been raised on tales of the Reverend William, as Grandfather was known throughout the county, passed down on the knees of her father, aunts, and uncles. He was legend, and yet real to her.

“He understood what it meant to be called.”

Jennie shivered, feeling that familiar and yet eminently Other presence of the Holy Spirit within her.

“I know that too,” she said. “That is why I must go to China.”

“And that is why I know he would be proud,” Father said, laying his broad, calloused hand on her shoulder.


This is the time of year we start to think about spring cleaning: washing those windows to let in the sunshine, dusting away those cobwebs around the ceiling, scrubbing stubborn grime—taking care of those pesky little things that build up over time.

What about that manuscript you’re working on, or the one that’s been sitting on your computer gathering digital dust? Here’s a spring cleaning checklist to help you out with your editing.  


The internet is full of helpful lists of questions to ask a blind date so you can get to know them. But have you ever thought about using these questions to get to know your characters?

After all, you’re about to embark on an intimate journey with this person, much like a dating relationship. You need to know more than just height, build, hair colour and eye colour. Just because they’re not actually real doesn’t mean these aren’t important things to know. And even if you never use these details in your writing, they will inform how you think about your character, resulting in a more multi-faceted picture.

Here are a few questions you could ask on a blind date with your character.

Writing my latest novel, Across the Deep, was a unique experience. While most writing falls neatly under the categories of either non-fiction or fiction, I was turning true, historical records into a novel form.

As you might imagine, this posed significant challenges. Here are a few things I kept in mind as I turned fact into fiction. (Keep reading)


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