How Can a New Year’s Resolution Help My Writing?

By Jennifer Hallmark

new-years-eve-1941665_960_7202017. Relief washes over me as I realize it’s a new season. A time to start again, with a feeling almost like spring bursting forth in all its glory.

Except it’s cold. And nothing is blooming.

But it’s still a time of newness, and many people make resolutions or set goals every January for what they’d like to do, see, lose, gain, or buy during the New Year. Others, like myself, don’t like to promise to do things (mainly lose weight or write more) since they probably won’t follow through. But resolutions are worth looking into…

I pulled up dictionary.com and looked up the definition of a resolution. They say a resolution is: the act of resolving or determining upon an action, course of action,method, procedure, etc. A decision or determination; the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose.

Oh. This sounds more like a plan than wishful thinking. Maybe there is something to making resolutions. But first, I always pray about a focus for each year. A thought or scripture to wrap my mind around so when life gets hard, I can remember and not lose heart. This year, my focus is to be thankful. Just pure, simple gratitude.

focus

Okay, so I have my focus to remember to be thankful. And maybe coming up with a plan is not a bad thing. I’ve researched this and found some very useful articles. So if you’re a writer and need help getting started this year too, here are the results of my research:

(1) Writer’s Digest. How to Develop a Writing Plan.

(2) Writers Helping Writers. Will This Be Your Year? Making a Writing Plan and Take Out the Guesswork.

(3) The Write Conversation. 9 Writing Productivity Mistakes to Avoid.

(4) Helping Writers Become Authors. 5 Ways to Make Better Writing Resolutions in 2016. 

(5)  Writer’s Digest. The Setback: How to Successfully Start Writing Again.

pencil picCheck them out. Then, like me, sit down and write out a plan or guide to keep you moving forward in 2017. And if you decide on choosing a focus, write it down and place it where you can see it often.

And let’s keep on writing!

Writing Prompt: Edith stared at the computer screen. She’d written Chapter One at the top of her page. Her first novel began with three words, the ones she couldn’t get out of her head. They were…

All Things Wedding

By Jennifer Hallmark

wedding flowersI dreamed of a wedding of elaborate elegance,
A church filled with family and friends.
I asked him what kind of a wedding he wished for,
He said one that would make me his wife.

~Author Unknown

This quote made me smile. June is traditionally the month of weddings and here at the Writing Prompts blog, we’ll discuss all things wedding. Whether a wedding is a simple ceremony among a few friends or as extravagant as Princess Diana’s, some type of ceremony can be found in almost all cultures and countries. Join us throughout the month of June. Maybe we’ll learn something new.

Mandy's wedding

Mandy’s wedding

Weddings are very much on my mind these days, though none of my immediate family married in June. Mom and Dad married in September as did my daughter, Mandy. My husband and I married in July. My son will be newly wedded (May 27th) by the time you read this post. When I think of the weddings I’ve been personally involved with, several words come to mind:

Beauty                         Romantic

Stress                           Hurry

Good food           Flowers          Surprises

 

And did I mention stress? I’m still looking for my dress and considering the groom’s table. That’s as far as I’ve gotten. Did I mention it’s only two weeks until the wedding? Sigh. But like all the others, it will somehow fall into place and we’ll look back with fond memories.

As a writer, I’ve thought a lot about weddings over the past couple of years. I’ve written a novel tentatively titled “When Wedding and Weather Collide.” If you knew me very well, you’ve find it amusing that I’m writing a book with a wedding as a major plot point. I never really dreamed about weddings as a teenager, though I always figured I’d marry someday. I didn’t have a scrapbook like my daughter or any thoughts on a wedding dress.

Our weddingSo when my boyfriend proposed, almost 34 years ago, I said okay. I couldn’t think of an argument against it. I was finishing a semester at college so Mom did a lot of my planning. I remember I didn’t want a traditional bride and groom cake topper, so I found a bell and dove to go on top. I wanted pink in the wedding because it was my favorite color. I borrowed a dress, planned a fairly simple ceremony, and we became husband and wife.

In my novel, I really enjoyed planning the wedding. I found the perfect dress, picked out colors, cakes, bridesmaid’s dresses, and even invitations. You can see all of my findings on my Pinterest page here.

So, in a way, I discovered a perfect wedding. 30 something years later. But that’s okay. Maybe one day, I’ll sell the movie rights and we can all watch the wedding on the Hallmark channel…  🙂


Writing Prompt: Complete this thought…

Lila stepped into the fabulous, lace-covered gown that had been her grandmother’s. The few alterations had made it fit like it had been made for her. Her best friend, Anne, started to zip the gown, then stopped.

“Uh, oh.”

“What do you mean, uh oh?”

The Crocodile Hunter and the Writer

crocodileBy Jennifer Hallmark

I have no fear of losing my life – if I have to save a koala or a crocodile or a kangaroo or a snake, mate, I will save it.”-Steve Irwin

When I think of Australia, one of the first things that come to mind is crocodiles. Large, salt-water, scary, teeth-filled reptiles that can grow to 17 feet long. Yes, the stuff nightmares are made of.

Also The Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. I really enjoyed his shows where he and his family would rescue, doctor, and feed the terrifying crocodile. Steve and his wife, Terri, were major proponents of conservation. Instead of a honeymoon, the couple took the chance to embark on a crocodile rescue mission and film the project for a wildlife documentary. According to Wikipedia, film footage of their honeymoon, taken by John Stainton, became the first episode of The Crocodile Hunter. (Shown below)

Irwin was a passionate conservationist and believed in promoting environmentalism by sharing his excitement about the natural world rather than preaching to people. He was concerned with conservation of endangered animals and land clearing leading to loss of habitat. He considered conservation to be the most important part of his work: “I consider myself a wildlife warrior. My mission is to save the world’s endangered species.”

While I didn’t always agree with all his philosophies about conservation and life in general, there was something about a man totally sold out to what he believed. On September 4, 2006, Irwin was on location at Batt Reef, near Port Douglas, Queensland, taking part in the production of the documentary series, Ocean’s Deadliest. He was snorkeling in shallow water when he was stung by a stingray in the heart and died.

He had given his all to see the message of conservation reach others. As a writer, what is my message? You might say, “But I write fiction”. All writing has a point to make, even if it is to purely entertain. Every book, whether non-fiction or fiction, has a theme. Have you thought about what you are trying to convey through your writing?

One theme I try to incorporate in all my writing is hope. I also love to include symbolism in subtle ways throughout my writing. Many times, in writing the first draft, I do this sub-consciously, only to notice it later in a read through. It is part of who I am and shows up in my writing.

writing450Crocodile hunting and writing. Maybe there not as different as you first thought. Both need passion to keep moving forward, courage to tackle the tough assignments, and a willingness to see it through to the end. I leave you with these questions.

  • What is your message?
  • What is your specific work’s theme?
  • What are you trying to convey through writing?

This is the final month before our big blog-a-versary celebration in June! You can enter our contest to win a $100 gift card simply by finishing one or all of our writing prompts offered on our regular Monday and Friday posts. If you haven’t already, you may want to follow this blog to receive an email each time we have a new blog post. The “follow” link can be found to the right of this post. Or, you can also “like” our Facebook page to stay up with the news.


Writing Prompt: Write a short paragraph from the prompt below. Don’t think of a theme or message. Just write it fast and from the heart. Then analyze the finished product and see what the subtle (or not so subtle) message is.

Uluru, a massive sandstone monolith, towered over our camp, magnificent even in the fading light of day. The place was sacred, or so said Daku, our young Aborigine guide. I turned, suddenly aware of a force emanating from somewhere above…uluru-1076320_1280

Golden Age of Detective Fiction

Sherlock By Jennifer HallmarkThis month, in honor of the topic, Favorite Historical Time Period, I’m writing to you as a reader. Reading is like breathing to me. I always have three or four books going at the same time; both fiction and non-fiction.  Though I enjoy reading and writing Southern fiction and fantasy, my personal favorite novels to unwind with are British mysteries from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

Authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [Sherlock Holmes], Margery Allingham [Albert Campion], Agatha Christie [Poirot, Miss Marple], Ngaio Marsh [Inspector Alleyn], and Dorothy Sayers [Lord Peter Wimsey] enjoyed great success predominantly during the 1920’s and 1930’s. With the exception of Doyle, most of their novels take place after World War I through the early 1950s.

Blue_plaque_re_Dorothy_L_Sayers_on_23_and_24_Gt__James_Street,_WC1_-_geograph_org_uk_-_1237429I love reading about the detectives during these years and the way their work intermingled with the war. Albert Campion, Lord Peter Wimsey, and Inspector Alleyn all worked in the war effort as spies, ambassadors, or agents. The characters are imperfect, real, honest, and wonderfully created. I could go on and on about them all but for lack of space, I’ll just mention Lord Peter Death Brendon Wimsey.

“Lord Peter” as he is referred to by most of the other characters in the book, is described as being of average height, with straw-colored hair, a beaked nose, and a vaguely foolish face. Behind the foolish face, however, lie keen analytical skill, athletic prowess, and unmatched persistence. He uses his royal stature, the son of the Duke and Dowager Duchess of Denver, as an aid to gathering information and gaining access to help him solve cases that puzzle the local police and Scotland Yard.

This character is endearing to me, a real hero, for several reasons. He has weaknesses, but keeps moving forward in spite of them. During his time as a young man in service during World War I, he suffers shell shock or what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder. When Lord Peter is overworked or tired, he struggles with relapses from the war in the form of nightmares and physical ailments. This only makes me want to cheer for him more.

Another reason is his love for Harriet Vane. After taking up her case where she’s been falsely accused, he proves her innocent of the crime of murdering her ex-boyfriend. Lord Peter saves her from the gallows, but she believes that gratitude is not a good foundation for marriage, and politely but firmly declines his frequent proposals. After solving several cases together over a period of several years, they finally reach the point where she must make a decision in the novel, Gaudy Night, a personal favorite.

IMG_20160401_155705095

My Sayers and Allingham novels

I’ve bought and read the majority of the books by Dorothy Sayers and Margery Allingham. I’m now in the process of collecting Ngaio Marsh’s well-written mysteries with Inspector Roderick Alleyn. I’ve just finished book 15.

 

If you find yourself in need of something different to read, I’d highly recommend the mysteries of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.
Tweet: #Reading is like breathing to me. http://ctt.ec/JcmU1+ #fiction

IMG_20160401_155606376

My newest detective books

Writing Prompt: I glanced at my bookcase, brimming over with detective stories. Which one should I read tonight? Suddenly…

Grand Prize Winners of Our Once Upon a Christmas Giveaway

OnceUponaChristmas
Wow. 2016 is here. And nothing is more fun than announcing winners to kick off this new year.

Let’s start with Lori Stanley Roeleveld’s book Red Pen Redemption. The winner is…Phee Paradise. Congrats, Phee!

Once Upon a Christmas Giveaway

We offered three sets of prizes for our grand prize winners.

Readers giveaway – $25 Barnes and Noble card, Books: Tessa and Clara BessWarm Mulled Kisses box set, Crooked Lines, Plum Pudding Bride

Writer’s giveaway – $10 Starbucks card, Books: The First Five Pages, The Time Keeper,  Heart Seekers box set, Tsunami 2004

Shopper’s giveaway – $10 Walmart gift card, bracelet, necklace and earrings, Books: Glimpses of the Savior devotions, First and Goal (football devotional)

Now the moment you are all waiting for:drum roll

We are happy to announce three big winners:

(1)Reader’s giveaway-Caryl Kane.

(2)Writer’s giveaway-Sparks of Ember.

(3)Shopper’s giveaway-Deborah Dunson.

Congratulations to all our winners! We’ll be getting in touch with you soon so we can send those gifts to you!

We’ll also be having another big giveaway to celebrate our blog’s 4-year anniversary. Our Blogaversary!

Make sure to leave comments on our Monday and Friday posts in 2016 to be eligible for more great prizes throughout the year…and don’t forget our weekly 3 Questions Wednesday interviews.

We’d also like to give a big shout out for our top four commenters of 2015:

Hip Hip Hooray to Deanna, Sparks, Amy, and Caryl!

fireworks 2

Christmas Celebrations and Decorations

11157649lBy Jennifer Hallmark

Breathe in, breathe out. It’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I have vegetated in the recliner all morning after an early invigorating walk, staring at the harvest/Thanksgiving decorations surrounding me. It’s an hour and a half until the Iron Bowl starts, the biggest football game of the year for Alabama and Auburn fans. I have plenty of time to get my thoughts on paper for my next post.

Our focus is on what Christmas means to me. Yes, it means family, my kin by blood and my church family, connected by the blood of Jesus. I love the Christmas plays, parades, television specials—from cute cartoons to moving stories about the birth of Jesus. I dress up in Christmasy clothes and shop more than any other time of the year.

This weekend, these three or four days after Thanksgiving, however, is where it all starts for me. I live in a rural area, near a small town, so on Black Friday, my husband and I venture to WalMart, CVS, Tractor Supply, and Dollar General. The crowds aren’t bad in our area, it’s enjoyable, and we always find a few treasures.

Now that Thanksgiving is over, Christmas music plays during my shopping, and presents lie on our bedroom floor waiting to be wrapped. It’s time. A smile spreads on my face as I sit here, envisioning the decorations that will soon cover the house. Lots of snowmen because they’re my favorite. The granddaughters love to see them all, though my two children roll their eyes at the explosion of roly-poly snow people of all colors, shapes and sizes.

They all have meaning as many were gifts IMG_20151209_075847333from friends and family, some no longer with me. Many were picked up from after Christmas on clearance tables or at summer yard sales. After a few seasons, I pass them on to others and we still have room to walk through the house.  🙂

Why? To me, Christmas is all about celebrations and decorations. Jesus was born in humble surroundings, but angels and one perfect star announced His birth. Shepherds visited him, and wise men bore precious gifts. Even in that tiny stable, Mary and Joseph must have celebrated as the presence of God visibly arrived in their world.

IMG_20151209_084915535Did the animals surrounding them sense the Son of God? Did the innkeeper or any of
the occupants of the inn visit them, drawn by a love beyond anything they’d ever sensed before? We’ll never know on this earth. Jesus is worth celebrating and as I decorate my home and play Christmas music, I think of Him. I envision my family gatherings and sometimes tear up with thoughts of family I won’t see or loved ones gone on to heaven.

Then the decorating is done. I walk through slowly, enjoying each decorated room, savoring the old decorations and new. I eagerly await the Christmas play that Ava, my oldest granddaughter, will star in at school. Her role is Mrs. Santa Claus. Then there is the play at church where she is an angel and little Sadie Rae, a lamb. She practices her baaing constantly.

A big Christmas Eve gathering and Christmas day visits round out the holidays. Before the New Year arrives, I carefully pack everything away, where it waits for its unveiling in 2016. I give a contented sigh while I sit, sipping hot tea and typing these last words.

Celebrations and decorations.

Jesus, the reason for the season.

My family and friends.

Christmas.744
Writing Prompt: Write a short paragraph telling how the photo above makes you feel.

Christmas Roundup – The Writing Prompts Crew

December seems like the best time to take a few moments and introduce you to the Writing Prompts Crew. We’ve added and subtracted over the years, but always end up with a really good group of writers. You can find more information about each of our writers, along with information and buy links for their published books by clicking “The Crew” tab above, or the link provided at the end of each bio. And please read to the end of this post for important information and details about the Once Upon a Christmas Giveaway!

Jennifer HallmarkJennifer Hallmark is co-founder of the Writing Prompts blog. She’s a writer by nature, an artist at heart, and daughter of God by His grace. She’s published over 200 articles and interviews on the internet. Through the Writing Prompts blog and her personal website, Alabama-Inspired Fiction, Jennifer focuses on her books, love of the South, and helping other writers. For fun, she loves to read detective fiction from the Golden Age, watch movies like LOTR, and play with her two precious granddaughters. Jennifer and her husband, Danny, have spent their married life in Alabama and have a basset hound, Max. Read more about Jennifer here.

betty owensBetty Thomason Owens is a multi-published author who writes romantic comedy, historical fiction, and fantasy-adventure. She has contributed hundreds of articles and interviews to various blogs around the internet and is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), where she leads a critique group. She’s also a mentor, assisting other writers and a co-founder of a blog dedicated to inspiring writers–this one! Read more here.

TammyTammy J. Trail is a wife, mother and grandmother. Residing in Kansas where life is a never ending joy ride as “taxi driver” for two teenage boys. She learns something new every day, and once in awhile it’s useful information. A lover of historical fiction in any time period, her favorite is the American Revolutionary period.

Betty Boyd 1A Pennsylvania native, Betty Boyd moved to the Tennessee Valley in 1994. She retired in early 2012 after 30 years of Government service. She has a consulting firm, Boyd Consulting Services, which offers writing services. She active in her church, and community. She is currently working on her first non-fiction book. Read more here.

anne evansAnne Garboczi Evans has been biting off more than she can chew ever since she entered the world with a splash at 10 lbs 1 oz. Marrying a military man and moving six times in four years was just a continuation of that process. Anne’s favorite things to do are take long walks with her husband and little boy, “Joe-Joe,” and get addicted to Netflix TV shows with her husband. Their latest guilty pleasure is Fox’s House.  Read more about Anne here.

Holly MichaelHolly Michael has enjoyed a writing career as a journalist, features writer, and a regular ghostwriter for a Guideposts magazine before authoring novels and nonfiction books. Married to Anglican Bishop, Leo Michael, Holly has three grown children; daughter Betsy and football-playing sons—Jake (NFL) and Nick (University of Louisiana-Lafayette). Kansas City, Missouri is home and she blogs at www.writingstraight.com. Read more here.

Karen JurgensKaren Jurgens, a Cincinnati native, has been a Texan transplant for thirty years and counting. As a lifelong writer, she has written stories since her elementary school days. As an adult, she wrote Christian fiction for her church’s newspaper as well as non-fiction that was published in a national magazine. Since retiring from teaching in 2014, she has begun a new career as an author, blogger, and speaker within the context of Christian ministry. Read more here.

RobinMasonHeadShotRobin E. Mason writes Christian-worldview–in other words, there’s no salvation message, but there are plenty of characters who know the Lord and share His perspective with those who are struggling.

Tessa and Clara Bess are both available on Amazon, both for Kindle and in print.

The third book in the series, Cissy, will be available in 2016.   Ms. Mason also has several poems included in an anthology, Where Dreams and Visions Live (Anthologies of the Heart Book 1) by Mary Blowers, as well as a short story, Sarafina’s Light, also in an anthology, Blood Moon, compiled by Mary Blowers. She will also be working on a personal anthology of poetry to be released in 2016 as well. Read more about Robin here.

HarrietMichaelNew to the Writing Prompts crew, Harriet E. Michael (no known relation to Holly Michael) was born in Nigeria, West Africa, as the daughter of missionaries. Harriet is a writer, gardener, substitute teacher, wife of over 36 years, mother of four, grandmother of one and soon-to-be grandmother of two. She holds a BS in nursing from West Virginia University but has discovered her passion for writing. Since her first published article in 2010, she now has over a hundred and fifty published articles and devotions. Read more here.

From all of us, to all of you, may your Christmas be blessed!

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV


OnceUponaChristmasOnce Upon a Christmas Giveaway Details!

Three chances to win!

Here are the categories and the prizes:

Readers giveaway – $25 Barnes and Noble card, Books: Tessa and Clara Bess, Warm Mulled Kisses box set, Crooked Lines, Plum Pudding BridePrize-1

Writer’s giveaway – $10 Starbucks card, Books: The First Five Pages, Heart Seekers box set, Tsunami 2004Prize-2

Shopper’s giveaway – $10 Walmart gift card, bracelet, Books: Glimpses of the Savior devotions, First and Goal (football devotional)Prize-3