Mary's Website

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Launch Day!

Announcing . . . Summer's Dream (Book 3 in the 2nd Chance Series). I'm excited to share what I've been working on for the last nine months. In the spring, I questioned whether I could write a book and launch it within nine months of another book's release. I know some writers come out with new books every few months. But it was two years between Books 1 and 2 in this series. So, it was an experimental journey for me. I put myself on a schedule that included the book being in the hands of a first reader, a pro-editor, beta readers, and my husband--all at different times, other than the beta readers. And I'm happy to say, it worked! Hallelujah!

Here's a little bit about Summer's Dream:

Summer dreamed of becoming an artist and painting natural beauty on canvas. But all that changed when she married Joshua Hart, a man carrying a powerful dream of his own. With a temper to match his wild-boy good looks, he stormed out of their marriage to pursue a life as a musician, leaving her alone and, unbeknown to him, pregnant.

Five years later, Summer is busy raising her daughter and managing the family's camp and retreat center in the woods of Eastern Washington. With her artistic dreams all but forgotten, her world turns upside down the day Josh shows up with an offer to help her get the camp ready--and plans for divorce.

Only Josh didn't expect to find a blue-eyed darling who calls him "Daddy" living at Hart's Camp. Not to mention his surprise over the attraction he still feels for Summer Day. Can he make amends for the past? Or is it too late?

My heart is for reconciliation and healing in marriage, and God has inspired me to write about that in books. He is so beautiful to heal our hearts and change us, isn't He? Sometimes the very situation we would consider beyond help, He touches and transforms.

Joy Calkins said this in her endorsement for Summer's Dream:

"As a pastor's wife, I've seen the grace of God work miracles in the lives of many marriages, including my own. Many, if not most of us need 2nd chances, a do over, a mulligan as my husband calls it in golf terms."

Have you ever needed a 2nd chance? A do over? I sure have.
 Can God bring life to a dead marriage?

Read what happens to Josh and Summer Day Hart in 

99 cents for a limited time!!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Real or Pretend?

Have you ever wondered if the book you were reading was more truth than fiction? Authors place the disclaimer in the front of the book stating it's fictitious. Yet, sometimes, I wonder. Is it real or pretend?

Then there's my writing.

My husband, brothers, kids may see some of my traits in characters I've written. Are any of my stories autobiographical? No. Definitely not. Huh-uh. No, sir. But how can I not include myself, at least a little bit, in tales that come from my heart? Perhaps, it's kind of like making stew. As authors, we take a little bit of reality, add a dash of half-truths, a pinch of that thing that happened once, and a whole bunch of imagination, and mix it all together, and wa-la! We have a tasty dish that doesn't resemble anything it used to be. It's stirred and heated--for hours and hours--and made into something else. So it is with my real world mixing up with my pretend world.

When I'm coaching teenagers for theater, one of the ways I get them to empathize with the character is to imagine a similar experience they've had, and then relate that to the emotions they're portraying. In the same way, I can take myself back to a past situation and ponder the feelings, and use those to dig deeper into the character's personality. I won't write my actual experiences. But some tidbits of my world definitely get stirred up in that other place.

On Tuesday, October 20th, I'm launching my third book in the 2nd Chance Series--Summer's Dream. And I got to thinking and wondering about the things that are actually a part of my story.

Here's me writing Summer's Dream in my backyard earlier this summer:

While I don't want to give anything away, here are some of the tidbits that leaped from my real world into my pretend world of Hart's Camp:
  • When we lived in Alaska, Jason and I owned land in a remote setting. We got to it by riding in a skiff, beaching the boat, and hiking into the woods about a quarter of a mile. When we left the islands, we were especially sad to leave our property. So, years later, when the opportunity arose, we purchased land in the country near the Wash/Idaho border. Hiking through the woods is one of our favorite pastimes. In the summer of 2014, as I sat in my backyard writing April's Storm, I'd think about how I'd like to "someday" write a story including our rustic setting--gorgeous woods, a lush valley between mountains, big gardens, etc. So, when I sat down to write Summer's Dream, in my mind's eye, our land became a camp and retreat center: Hart's Camp--Changing Lives, One Heart at a Time. All I had to do was stare into the trees, the mountains, go for long walks, and I could see it all.
  • A couple of years ago, we built a seven-foot-high fence in my backyard to keep out deer. In Summer's Dream, Em has a big garden in back of her log cabin, but it's overgrown and much of it has gone to ruin due to her poor health.
  • My husband has an old Willy's Jeep truck. In the story, Josh stole Uncle Mac's Willy's Jeep, and totaled it. Now he's returning to Hart's Camp to make amends with his uncle.
  • My niece-in-law's name is "Summer Day." I asked her if I could borrow her name for this story, and she said yes. I knew I was going to call the heroine "Summer," but adding the "Day" part made it extra-special.
  • My nephew's name was Joshua--he's in heaven, now--and his parents fondly called him "Joshie." In the story, Aunt Em refers to Josh as "Joshie." Each time I wrote that endearment, I thought of my nephew.
  • When my oldest son was a little kid, he leaped off the porch and fell on a Tonka truck, splitting open his lip. In Summer's Dream, Shua--Summer and Josh's four-year-old daughter--did the same thing and split open her chin.
  • Earlier this summer, we received warnings from neighbors about cougars spotted near our property. It made me wary of hiking in the woods. And my fears brought about the cougar intrigue in the story.
  • Jason plays guitar and leads worship in church. When we were young, we used to sing together. But there was a time--I hate to confess this--when I felt resentful of the time he spent by himself, playing his guitar. At the time, we were struggling in our relationship, and I wished he'd spend more time with me. While I don't harbor those feelings now, at one time in my life they were real. To get into Summer's thoughts, I dug up those old emotions and fed them into how she responds to Josh pursuing his musical dreams at any cost. 

There's a blurred line somewhere between an author's real and pretend worlds, isn't there? A friend of mine tells me our experiences are never wasted. As authors, I think that's especially true. We may adjust details and outcomes, but many feelings, situations, and dialogues come straight from real life. And all those emotions and heart-stirring layers make our characters more authentic.

I love it when people talk to me as if my characters are real. And, hey, they are, right?

To read the synopsis for Summer's Dream, visit

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Miracle Wedding Story

I met Jason at church when I was fifteen. I loved his smile and his beautiful green eyes. The first time he sat next to me on the pew was one of the best days of my life. We started dating, which really meant going to church—thanks to four services a week—or sitting around my house, talking.
The problem with our relationship was that I was young. I got my first kiss on my sixteenth birthday. And five-and-a-half months later, Jason asked me to marry him—he was a whopping nineteen. There wasn't any fanfare. No billboard proposal, diamond ring, or audience. Just two people who felt the rest of their lives would be better with each other.
The biggest challenge ahead of us was facing my mom. I was sixteen, the only girl in the family. And though she liked Jason and said we could eventually marry, we had to wait since I was so young—unless God showed her differently.
Hallelujah for the “unless.” Being young and full of believing in the impossible, we knew God could surely do that exact thing.
The Lord often revealed things to my mom in dreams—words of wisdom, a baby's gender before it was born, etc. Jason, on the other hand, would have an impression, where something came to his mind strongly, and he would recognize that as God speaking to him.
One day, he told me, “God showed me the date we're supposed to get married.”
Hurray! I was so excited. And I knew if the Lord could show him the date, surely He would show my mom too.
Jason wrote the information on a piece of paper and put it in a sealed envelope, and we waited for God to finish the work.
One morning a couple of weeks later, my mom told me she'd had a dream. In her night thoughts, she was decorating a wedding cake and had written a date on the top. She didn't tell me what it was, but she wrote the month and day on a piece of paper and put it in an envelope.
And a “reveal” was planned.

It was a little scary, but mostly exciting, as I waited to see how it would all turn out. Would the dates match? If they were different, which one would be the right one? (Shame on me for doubting, huh?) With smiles and eager anticipation, my mom and Jason opened the other person's envelope. Alas, each paper read “August 9th.”
We had our miracle!
We did a bunch of whooping and hugging and praising God. My dream of getting married right away was coming true.
A month later, when August 9th rolled around, I was a young bride, barely seventeen. We were just two kids facing a big world, but we were choosing to spend our lives with each other, for better or for worse. And that's what we've done.
Here's a song Jason wrote, and we sang at our wedding:
Jesus, we know that we need You.
Jesus, we know You are King.
Go with us throughout life's journey,
And make us a vessel for Thee.
And that could be the end of our happily-ever-after story about the date. But to add to the fun, sixteen years later, on August 9th, our youngest son was born, which was a really sweet anniversary gift. And then, thirty-nine years from our wedding day, our oldest son chose to marry on that date. How cool is that? We have an ongoing family joke that all weddings and special events should happen then, also.
In a couple of days, Jason and I will be celebrating our 40th anniversary. Some thought we'd never make it—and didn't mind telling us so—especially since I was so young. But God had a good plan for our lives. Four days ago, while hiking on our mountain, I asked Jason to marry me, and he said “yes.” Yay!! We would do it all over again, if given the chance.

I'm so pleased God gave us our own wedding miracle, our promise of His love and care for us through the years. And, hey, I got to marry the tall boy with the beautiful green eyes. Here's to forty more!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Radical or Tentative?

I woke up this morning with the word “tentative” on my mind.

Tentative is the opposite of radical. It’s safety and holding back. It’s a lifestyle that says it’s better to be careful, cautious, and wary. Who wants to be reckless? Or fanatical? We’ve been taught those extremes are definite no-nos.

A mom keeps her kids tentative by constantly reminding them of their limits and things they should never do. Not to say basic safety isn’t needed, that’s her job. But if she stops them from climbing trees or visiting the neighbor kids, if she keeps them in their own yard, drawing a mark they can’t cross, they won’t learn to explore and see the people on the other side. They learn to live cautiously.

A pastor keeps his flock tentative by slipping warnings of spiritual extremes into sermons. I wish I’d kept track of all the times I’ve heard the preacher mention “rolling on the floor” as a terrible thing. “You don’t want to be like those who . . .” or “Back in the day they’d . . .” Honestly? I’d rather see someone roll on the floor—whatever that is—than feeling stifled and knowing the Holy Spirit is quenched in a church. We’re so worried about what something might look like. Being weird. What will so and so think if I lift my hands or shout out a praise or dance? Whew, that’s too radical. So we sit tentatively. Cautious. One eye roaming the place for anyone who might be looking back.

I wonder if I was born tentative. I know I was raised that way, lived it as an adult, and most assuredly, passed it on. Maybe being this way is really about control. If I don’t go full gun, I can always turn back and no one will notice. If I put myself out there in faith, abilities, service, fulfilling dreams, following a calling, loving, being pure, worshiping, I may embarrass my kids (yes, this is true) or the person sitting next to me. But if I hold back, not really being myself or all I can be or all God called me to be, OR if it doesn’t work out, I can easily slip back into the familiar corner of complacency, unnoticed, and comfort myself that “it wasn’t meant to be.”


What would happen if all of us tentative Christians said “enough!”? What if we simply stood up and declared “I won’t be tentative one more day!”? A simple decision. Yet, perhaps, terrifying.

What horrible atrocities have been committed in our world—wars, genocide, abortion, hate crimes, racism, abuse, negligence, and stifling of faith—because of people sitting back and doing a big fat nothing? “Oh, it’s not my problem.” Ha! If we live in this world, you can bet it’s our problem. 

What would your life or mine be like today if for the last ten or twenty years we’d been running straight for God with arms open wide, loving people fanatically, giving in extreme generosity, following the dreams of our hearts, and worshiping in complete freedom?

Wow, mine would look different. Oh, sure, I’ve had my times of boldness and pressing in, raising the flag of being sold out for God and His kingdom. Then something would happen—life, hurts, disappointments, grief—and I’d find myself tentative again, even about faith. I was the girl who carried a big Bible on the stack of books in high school. I boldly became a pastor’s wife at nineteen, confident we could face anything, even though I knew absolutely nothing about ministry. We worked in a mission church, started a Christian school, lived on little, and believed God for everything, including food. I faced life and got beaten down and got back up again. I’ve known what it is to dance and shout and experience amazing places in God. And then there’s the other side I’ve known all too well, my default: being tentative.

Isn’t it something how life or fears or doubt can lure us back into our little corner?

Well, today, I’m thinking about exchanging tentative for radical. Caution for freedom. For each of us, that might look different. To some it might be about meeting your neighbors and sharing the gospel. To someone else, preaching a sermon, starting a small group in your house, going on a mission trip, helping in a food bank, adopting a child, or even writing that book that’s been on your heart for years.

This morning I woke up pondering how I didn’t want to worship tentatively anymore. I don’t want a cautious faith that holds me back. I want to go boldly after God, confident in the things promised in His Word and in my heart. What if we only had one day to live? How would you spend it? How would I? I doubt whatever it is would be passive. We’d be doing something very alive and ambitious and on purpose.

Let’s live like that all the days we have left.

How about you?

I’m in.

Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; Isaiah 54:2

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Awful Draft

As a writer, I love to work at my own pace and style. No deadlines. Just living in the story. Loving creativity. But that doesn’t work so well for making me finish what I’ve started. Or reaching a deadline.

If a group of writers compared notes over coffee, each one would have their own writing style. I bet we’d see . . .

The always-outline girl.
The freestyle-never-outline writer.
The stay-up-late-and-crash-through-the-draft guy.
The sit-down-when-inspiration-hits and type-as-many-words-as-possible lifer.
The I-can-write-anywhere-anytime-just-do-it gal.
The wish-I-can-wish-I-might procrastinator guy.
And so many more.

Within each of our styles and personalities, our writing changes and grows. Maybe in the beginning we were the optimist, hoping our first layer of words would come out perfect. (Oh, how I wish mine would!) But then we change and become determined to write more or better or faster, therefore we force ourselves into a different technique.

Delivering words can come with moments of dazzling inspiration. Or nothing emotionally charges us, and we have to push and prod and squeeze creativity out of our mind and heart. The task can be as grueling as digging a ditch or as freeing as leaping off the edge of the diving board into cool, invigorating water.

My writing style is typically circular with lots of backtracking. I write a few pages, then edit, change things, and eventually, move forward. Repeat. A day or two might pass without me writing, therefore when I start up, I have to go to the beginning again. It’s a constant circular progress, moving forward in meager portions.

It’s me. It’s what I like to do. But . . .

At that rate, it takes a looooooong time to write a three-hundred-page rough draft. Sometimes, years. Especially, considering how fond I am of waiting for inspiration. However, this year, I'm trying something different. I decided if I want to take writing seriously, and I do, I had to stop waiting for the creative bug and realize I’m a writer who can write. Therefore, I need to move forward every day.

Get the first draft done! has become my motto. Thus my title—The Awful Draft—because it is pretty terrible.

However, I’ve broken the circular pattern. I must confess to using the old technique in the first thirty pages of my WIP. But since breaking through the need to deepen the story first, I’ve made myself write forward, only reading the previous two pages each day. My goal is to throw down the first draft and finish it before a personal deadline.

And—hallelujah—it’s working.

There are days I’ve typed out twenty pages—that’s really humming for me—and days when I'm happy with three. I still come up with times of zero inspiration, when I don’t feel like writing. Nevertheless, I can always write something. And so can you! Who's going to see that first draft, anyway?

The need to start editing now is powerful. It grips me, and I almost surrender. But I refuse to yield. So far, I’ve reached two-hundred pages much faster than I ever would have writing the old way. I’m trusting that the ragged edges of my initial attempt will transform into beauty along the way. And in the end, hopefully a quicker end, I’ll finish the race and have a meaningful story to share.

Here’s to many more awful first drafts!!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Follow Your Heart

If God has put something in your heart to do, I want to encourage you to stop putting it off and just do it. Too often, I ponder the thoughts of my heart way too long without taking action. I allow self-doubt or fear or worries to rob the good thing I would have done if only I’d listened and leaped forward.

I wish I were bolder. Braver. More willing to take risks. Or to believe in myself. Or in God’s ability to help me.

But there are times when something holds me back. Do you ever feel that reluctance to give yourself the freedom to follow your heart?

When we try something new, our first attempts can be pretty sketchy. Sometimes, awful. Like rough drafts. That’s why they’re called “rough” drafts, right? Thinking about my lousy first attempts at writing could keep me from trying again. What if fear crippled me and I stopped writing altogether?

Even though I believe we should do the thing we were made to do, to follow God’s nudging, there are times when I don’t listen. I overlook, or ignore, the longings I feel.

Do you ever feel that way?

Sometimes we have to give ourselves a gentle kick. To be open to failing, if need be. If we don’t, we’ll never know what we could have accomplished with God’s grace and goodness fueling us.

“I might fall on my face.”

It’s true. We might.

Starting something new can be scary. However, one step leads us to draw the next foot forward. Writing the first sentence makes the second one easier. Speaking the first line eases the way for all the others to be said confidently. But that first step, that newborn effort, however big or small, can be the most daunting.

We have to kick fear out of the picture. Be willing to take the plunge. Dream big. Follow through. I challenge you, and me, to take that first step, and see what happens.

Panic can cripple creativity. We might feel momentarily frozen. Thus, stage fright.

But, please know, you can do it. I can do it. We can take that fumbling step forward, and the next step will be easier.

If you feel a call to do a thing, and it’s pounding a wild drumbeat in your heart, telling you over and over to try, to take that step, then squash fear and doubt. Sweep it out the door, and welcome the chance to follow a dream.

If we should falter, let’s not wallow in misery and allow one misstep to keep us from trying again.

Instead, be bold.
Take a step.
Do what’s in your heart.
Faith is all or nothing.

Start that new thing. Write a book. Paint a picture. Move to a new place. Look for a different job. Teach a Sunday school class. Start a youth group. Preach. Become a missionary.

Follow your dream. Which really means follow your heart, believing that God, who loves you so much, is leading you.

Just do it. And be glad you did. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

To Beta Readers

Dear Beta Readers,

I want to say a huge “Thank you!!”

You perform such a valuable, helpful, enlightening service to writers. You read books that are still in the rough. You open your heart to the story, fall in loveor hateheroes and heroines with their flaws, and offer advice. You discover errors both writers and editors have overlooked. You point out strengths and weaknesses. And some—thank you so much—offer praise to encourage the writer.

What would I do without you?

I know some authors do not use beta readers. The manuscript goes to the editor, and that’s it. I’ve asked a couple of writers why they don’t use beta readers, and they told me they didn’t want their voice changed. Maybe it’s because I’m a newer writer, but I value the beta reader’s part in my storytelling a lot. I need early feedback telling me the story works. That it makes sense. And if it doesn't, I want to hear suggestions on how to make it ring true. I’ve used beta readers for all three of my books, and I truly appreciate their time and commitment to the heart of my stories.

Beta readers make books better! You are an integral part of my writer's journey. Yes, my voice might get changed a little. As it does with the editor’s chopping block. But each suggestion, whether I use the alteration in its fullness or not, gets considered and makes me think differently about the section as I go through it with my own magnifying glass.

An author’s sweat and tears and heart are poured into her story. It’s hard to take harsh criticism. But it’s so much better to get it from early readers and an editor than later with the public eye and tough reviews.

Thank you, beta readers, for telling authors the truth. For being brave enough to share the good and the bad about our stories, and helping our work become so much better.

You are the stars in a book’s success.

Thank you!!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Holding my Breath

When I release a new book, or play, I feel like I’m holding my breath. Waiting. Wondering. Will anyone like it? Can I, we, convey the heart of this story? Will someone “get” it?

Months, maybe a year, before Opening Night, or years if it’s a book, I've had a spark of an idea that could germinate into something bigger. It might start with a riled conversation, someone’s weakness, a character’s quirky trait, or like my latest play, a question. For me, the story develops slowly. I don’t know the ending, other than that it will be a happy one, and I don’t foresee the gritty details. But layer by layer, a tale emerges, then gets deeper and thicker with human flaws, details, interactions, and emotions.

While I typically work on a piece for a long time, I never know if the outcome will be what I'd hoped for. Is it good enough? Will the audience get the punch line? I remember one year standing behind the backdrops in my black tech clothes, holding my breath, waiting to see if the audience would laugh at a particular spot. When the laughter came, I grinned in relief at my assistant. That was a sweet moment. Another time, seven boys were doing a pretty awesome line dance. I was sure the audience would clap and cheer during the country music. I can’t see the faces in the crowd. I’m behind the set, listening, sometimes peeking through a tiny hole in the junction of two flats. On that night, throughout the entire routine, there wasn’t a sound from the audience. I couldn’t believe it. Disappointment crept through me. Then, as the song and lights faded, the room erupted with loud, wild applause. Whew. Big sigh.

With a play, I get immediate feedback in the clapping, the whistles, the laughter, the encore.

As an author, I don’t get to experience the groans, tears, or laughter as a reader absorbs the story I've lived in. After the release of a book, there’s silence. And it can be a little scary. Each day I wonder if someone, somewhere, is reading one of my books. Do they hate it? Do they like it? (grimace, sigh) I’m not sharing this to get praise or criticism for my books. Reviews do that job, and I’m not asking for that here. I’m just thinking about where I've been for the last two-and-a-half months since the release of April’s Storm. Other authors, artists, and theater directors might relate to this after-launch dilemma.

You see, I’m in wonder-land. A place of quiet contemplation. I ponder if a story that lived in my mind can be adequately felt, tasted, lived in someone else’s mind. What could I have done better? How could I improve with the next theme?

In three short weeks, I’ll get to “hear” the response for my next production A Taste of Joy, a story that started with a question—Could a person filled with joy make a difference? This Depression-Era tale is about me exploring that idea. For now, I’m filled with hope that between today and three weeks from now, my actors will step into their shoes and become their characters for a little while, to know and experience others’ pain and losses, and to find real joy in the midst of it.

And me? I’ll be backstage, behind beautifully painted flats, holding my breath a little . . . and listening.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

CrossReads Book Blast with Cathy Lynn Bryant & Jessica Dorman


Sarah Anne's Expedient Marriage 

By Cathy Lynn Bryant & Jessica M. Dorman

Amazon Buy Button

About the Book:

Knowing he was about to die, Sarah Anne’s beloved father had arranged for her to marry Alexander Swyndhurst II. Alexander, a recent widower, had no intention of taking another wife; but after learning the young woman’s situation—that she had been the object of at least one man’s unwanted attentions, and that she would soon be left alone and unprotected—he had agreed to the marriage. He had one stipulation, however: He and Sarah Anne would live separately—he in Bristol, England, and she in Amesbury, Massachusetts Bay Colony. Sarah Anne had agreed wholeheartedly with this arrangement. Will Alexander have a change of heart? What of the dangerous man from her past? What will happen while her husband is away—leaving her alone with only the servants? Even though there are connections, each novel in the series may be read as a stand-alone.

Cathy Lynn Bryant & Jessica M. Dorman 

Inspired by interesting characters and events uncovered while doing genealogical research, mother and daughter writing team, Cathy Lynn Bryant and Jessica Marie Dorman, who live in beautiful New England, have masterfully woven the stories of real people and fictional characters from the 17th and 18th centuries to develop inspirational, romantic, works of historical fiction. The Unshakable Faith series includes the following titles: Book 1 Lost Love and Shipwrecked--Madeline Pike Finds Hope in the New Land; Book 2 Grandmother's Namesake; Book 3 Sarah Anne's Expedient Marriage.

Follow Cathy Lynn Bryant & Jessica M. Dorman

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Enter to Win a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

Enter below to enter a $50 Amazon gift card, sponsored by author Cathy Lynn Bryant & Jessica M. Dorman! a Rafflecopter giveaway This book blast is hosted by Crossreads. We would like to send out a special THANK YOU to all of the CrossReads book blast bloggers!

How to Make Fun Ads with GIMP

I've been having fun making some ads with the free software called GIMP, an image manipulation program. A friend asked me how I made these ads, so I decided to do a little blog about it to help her, and maybe someone else is curious too. If you have Photoshop, you can use that. But, for those of us who are looking for something free, I recommend GIMP. You can check it out and download at

A big project, like creating a book cover, takes a lot of time and effort and learning the ins and outs of the program. But to do a simple ad like the one above isn't too difficult. If you like creative things, you might enjoy designing some ads for your book.

1.) First, you'll want to download GIMP at the website noted above

2.) When you open GIMP, Click on FILE, then NEW

3.) Choose the size you want. Like 500 X 333 or 600 X 400 (or for Pinterest, something more like 600 X 900). Click OK.

4.) Now, you should see a rectangular box where your picture will be. To the left of the GIMP screen, you should also see two small menu boxes: Toolbox and Layers. (If you don't see them, look under WINDOWS)

5.) For the picture at the top of this blog, I needed to find a picture to use. So I went to a free photo site called Pixabay at (Sometimes I buy pictures at Fotolia: For the ad above, I wanted a muted, stormy picture in the background, something that went along with the book. I downloaded (for free) a picture of rain. (Be sure to SAVE AS in a file you can easily find.) Then I took the picture into my Photoscape program (also free) and changed the size of the photo to match the rectangle shape I'd chosen in step #3 above. You can use any photo manipulation program to do that. So I chose 500 X 333. Now, save the newly sized picture under a new name. Sometimes I tweak something several times, so I'll name it rain1, rain2, etc.

6.) Back to the GIMP, click on FILE, then OPEN AS LAYERS. Click on PICTURES and find the file and picture you are going to use (the one you just resized.) Click the picture, then click OPEN. The picture will drop into the rectangle on the GIMP screen. Cool, huh? (If you can't see the picture you just inserted, but you see the outline where it should be, it means it's below the other picture. Do this: Right-click on the picture, then a menu pops up. Click on LAYER, then STACK, then LAYER to TOP. Now, you should see the book cover above the background. Yay.)

7.) Follow the same steps in #6 to bring in a picture of your book. You'll want to resize it first. I used 275 pixels.

8.) To grab hold of the book image, check the LAYER menu and make sure the picture file is highlighted with gray. That means it's now "active." Go to the Toolbox and click on the icon for "moving" as seen in this picture:

9.) Now, hover your cursor over the book cover shot until you only see an arrow and that "moving" icon. As long as there's an icon of a finger, it's not ready. (If you accidentally move the background picture, instead of the book cover, click EDIT, then UNDO. I've done this lots of times.) Now, you can grab hold of your book cover and move it wherever you'd like.

10.) (Optional) To get the book to be angled as my picture is above, Click on the ROTATE TOOL.

Then, grab hold of the book cover shot again and as you move the cursor, a grid will show and you can choose the angle you want. You can always UNDO in the EDIT section. Experiment with rotating and moving and find where you want the cover image to be.

11.) Now, it's time for words! Go to the Layers Menu and click on the file of the background picture to make sure it's highlighted. Next, click on the "A" in the Toolbox. Go to the background picture and click on it where you want the lettering to be. (You can always move it later.) Type your words in the little box. (You can also copy and paste from a Word doc) Then, highlight the words and click in the small menu where it says SANS. Here you can choose the type of font you want, and you can change the letter sizing. Usually, I remove the word "Sans" if I don't want that font, and if you type a letter, let's say "B," then a bunch of font options will pop up. Click on the one you want. Then, highlight the font and put in the size you want. This takes a lot of experimenting. In the example below, I've used Sans and font size 25.

Whenever you want to change the lettering, click the file with the lettering showing in the LAYER box, and click the "A" in the Toolbox, then highlight the lettering to make the changes. If you want to move the wording, click the "move tool" icon as we did above. Remember, you can undo anything. It's okay to experiment and to make mistakes.

I consider these little ads a work of art. They're fun to make and creative. Once you start getting the hang of the GIMP program, it's even relaxing. Hard to believe? I mean it. :)

12.) TO SAVE is different with this program. You'll need to go to FILE and click EXPORT. Then, click on PICTURES and locate the file where you want this photo to go. Click on the arrow near the bottom of the screen that says "ALL EXPORT IMAGES" and choose either png or jpg, whichever you want to save as and click that option. Then go up to the name of the file at the top of the screen and change that to jpg or png in the title. Click EXPORT. Another menu will open and click EXPORT again. Now, this has saved in a file that you can use on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest. You can't change anything from THIS file. But, you should also SAVE AS so you can tweak something or adjust it to make a different wording or picture in the future. It will save as an .xcf file.

Whew. Does that sound too overwhelming? I hope not. Like any new thing, there are steps to learn. If you take each point above and experiment along the way, you'll get used to how GIMP works. Don't be afraid of making mistakes. Lots of authors are making these little ads, and I think they're pretty eye-catching. And way more interesting than showing the cover of the book only. 

Have fun with it! I know I am. If you have questions, I'm not a pro, but I'd be glad to help out.

Here are a few more of my experiments...

Here's two I did for a friend...

I have this one on my website:

Yay! You can do it too.

PS...Two days later, I'm adding a little more info. I'm always learning, making mistakes, and figuring things out, especially when it comes to technical stuff. So, I decided on Tuesday afternoon that I'd use the ad with the rain at the top of this page (I really like that one) and do a $5.00 post-boost on Facebook. When it didn't start up within the hour like they usually do, I figured something was wrong. I checked my fb page before I went to bed, and still nothing. The next morning (I live in the Pacific NW) most of the $5.00 had been used for promotion, and over 1300 people had supposedly seen it. Yay! (?) But then, I got a notice from Facebook stating my picture was denied boosting because it had more than 20% writing. Hmmm. I didn't know this little rule. So, in the future, less words and more picture. They said it can look like spam if it's too wordy. The strange thing is that it was sent out, but then rejected. I don't know what to think about that.

Until next time...

Write on.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

CrossReads Book Blast: Discerning Truth in a World Filled with Lies by Ron Leonard


Discerning Truth in a World Filled with Lies By Ron Leonard

Amazon Buy Button

About the Book:

Are you tired of being lied to? Not sure you can trust anyone outside your immediate family (and you're even keeping a close eye on them)? Do you hate it when you discover that you've fallen for a lie? Then you're in the right place. This book is dedicated to the belief that the truth can be found and is worth any price. The author shares insights and anecdotes from his various adventures in spotting lies everywhere from our culture to our co-workers. Whether the lies come to you from advertisers, journalists, politicians, economists, friends, or even the church pulpit, this book will teach you how to question and counter the avalanche of lies you experience every day. Additional case studies are presented that tie together the various concepts in easily understood vignettes. A bonus section shares insights on truths learned from counseling with real-live individuals and couples. Key points are highlighted by personal stories from the author's life. Available on Amazon, Kindle, and Smashwords or signed copies are available at


Ron Leonard The author is a Christian therapist, MBA, and Mensa member. He has been married 25 years and has two, yes two, teenagers. After spending four years writing this book he swore not to think about writing another one for many years. Three months later, he has the rough outlines of a fiction book with two heroes, one of whom has schizophrenia.  

Follow Ron Leonard Website | Facebook

Enter to Win a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

Enter below to enter a $50 Amazon gift card, sponsored by author Ron Leonard! a Rafflecopter giveaway This book blast is hosted by Crossreads. We would like to send out a special THANK YOU to all of the CrossReads book blast bloggers!

Go Deeper! Character Development

In theater, I love it when my actors take their characters deeper. “I couldn't believe that was Sarah!” an audience member told me. “I came to see Ben perform, but I got lost in the story and forgot about him.” These compliments mean Sarah and Ben walked in their characters' shoes so convincingly, the audience was transported into the story through suspended disbelief. And that means my actors did good. (The director smiles.)

As a writer, I want my characters to be rich, deep, and real. So multi-layered that a reader is pulled into the story, mind and heart, at least, for a little while.

In the first week of theater practice, actors don't “get” the person they'll eventually portray. But after many hours of deepening exercises, talking in character, and reciting lines, someone new emerges—a mixture of the character AND the actor. If you saw the same play in two venues, each performance would be different because of that unique blend of actors and characters.

To reach that place of “becoming,” we do exercises to deepen characterization that an author can use to take characters deeper in writing also. Here are a few of my favorites:

Write a letter.
My first assignment to the actors, besides memorization, is to write a letter in character. Sometimes the letter is addressed to me. Other times it'll be to a person in the story. The mayor. The Baron. The cousin. This process helps the actor take a peek inside the character's head and see what drives him, what makes him sad or happy, what he wants in life. As a novelist, I've used this technique to dig into a character's reasons for doing a certain thing. Maybe the protagonist writes her grandmother and shares her frustrations with her husband. The antagonist could write “Dear Abby” and explain his horrible upbringing. Writing a letter in the hero's viewpoint takes the character's journey to another level. It deepens the backstory. It improves internal dialogue. It makes me understand my characters.

Talk in character.
One of my favorite warm-up exercises is for two actors to go to the front of the class and talk in character. “Talk about chocolate.” “Debate the Baron's rudeness.” “Gossip about Miss Mable.” This is perfect for improv, but it's also a great stimulation for deepening characters in writing. Go off-script. Take a few minutes and have a gab session between two people about a problem in the story or let them yak about another character. This gig isn't for inclusion in your story, but simply to deepen characters' thoughts and personalities. Of course, you never know, this dialogue might be perfect for your manuscript. Let yourself go and talk in character for a while and see where it leads.

Get your shoes on!
I ask my actors, "Do you have your shoes on?" This doesn't mean their tennies. This question refers to them “becoming” their characters. Sometimes, I have them leave the area when I tell them, “Get your shoes on.” They step out of the room and return in character. As writers, we have to do this also. We answer a telephone and get pulled from our work, maybe even come away discouraged. We have to think about bills, dinner, marketing, whatever. Sometimes, it can be difficult to get back into our character's head. And we must do that for deep POV. It can help to step out of the room for a moment, whether physically or mentally, and reenter with “our shoes on.” Now, I'm Ty. I rock my eyebrows like him, sag in the chair, etc. Whatever it takes, I want to stay in that character's thoughts and feelings until I'm ready to switch.

Ask questions.
I love interacting with my actors in character. In fact, I rarely call an actor by his real name. I refer to each one as his/her character's name. This helps them stay in character, and helps me direct from a different perspective. I want actors to know the characters they're becoming inside and out. I want Ben to understand why the Baron acts the way he does. What hurt him in the past? Why is he mean? What did he have for breakfast? What are his dreams? I stand at the head of the class and ask questions. Students answer in character.

Writers can do the same thing to go into deep POV. You can start by making a list of questions to ask a character. Why are you treating her that way? What were you thinking? What were you doing last night? What did you have for dinner? Spend a few minutes free-writing answers as if you are the character. This isn't a goal-oriented exercise. It's not even for use in the story. Although, an idea might pop up that will bring a whole new twist to your tale. The real purpose is to deepen your character. To explore his thoughts and dreams and pursuits. To think and breathe like him. Anyone can write a simple story. It takes work “becoming” that character.

Have fun with backstory.
Before I write a play, I write a description and brief backstory for each character. It's enough to get me into the characters' difficulties and strengths while writing. But when the actors receive their parts, they explore how they're going to bring deeper backstories to their characters. The way one actor portrays Griff Cardingham is different than the way another actor would. So it is with writing. Backstories make the difference in taking characters deeper. In acting class, when someone tells a backstory, I often have an aha! moment. “I didn't know he was Irish!” (Even though I'm the playwright.) And, I laugh. Later, when that character isn't as believable as I'd like, I remind him of his story. I inquire how that character would respond based on growing up in Ireland.

The need to deepen backstory may hit you midway through your writing. You have your pre-write-up about Clay. You know these things: he had a rough relationship with his father, he sank a boat, he robbed a bank. You know the basics. But maybe you reach a point where the writing glugs. Now's the time to explore Clay's backstory. Take it deeper, ask questions, and find those tidbits of his history like you or I would have in real life. Maybe Clay nearly drowned in the swamp by his grandmother's farm at age six, and a snake was floating in the water. Ever since, he's had a fear of snakes--and the unknown. We all have a backstory. What's your character's tale? Again, this isn't to dump a bunch of information into the story. It's to make the characters real and dimensional in our minds.

Sometimes I tell my actors, “Make me believe.” That means they aren't being passionate, they aren't getting into character, they're portrayal is shallow. What do they do? They'll have to draw from some of the above exercises to go deeper. As writers, so do we. We need to find a place where the character comes alive in us. She isn't just someone I'm talking about. For a little while, I need to become her, know her thoughts, her heart, her way of walking, and why. It's not that I've lost myself. No, I've become the character to such a degree that it's a mixture of her and me, a blending of personalities, just like my actors do onstage.

Is your character weak? Take him/her deeper. If you come to a place where you can't get over a hurdle, the protagonist seems too selfish or inept or shallow, try writing a letter in his voice. Explore through questions what the guy is thinking and feeling about seeing his old girlfriend after ten years. Or leave your writing area and return as if you are your antagonist . . . for a few minutes.

Our goal is to make the reader--or the audience--believe. It's a process of becoming. Of going deeper. Always deeper. In doing so, we make our characters live, whether it's onstage . . . or on the page.