Songspiration – Charming the Troublemaker Part 1


Now, you may be wondering what that word means. Well, Songspiration means songs that have inspired characters, story lines, and other aspects related to writing a book.

Today I am sharing the Songspiration for the hero in my upcoming release, Charming the Troublemaker. Alex Murdock is a swoony hero – a flirt…and #adorkable but he’s also quite the troublemaker…And maybe that has a little bit to do with being a flirt. 😉 I can’t wait for you to meet him. Get a peek inside his character in the video below.

Add Charming the Troublemaker to your Goodreads shelf now!  (Releases November 1, 2017)

Book Journeys – A Biltmore Love Story

A Biltmore Love Story

It’s sad to say that most of the best love stories are not widely known. We hear a great deal about people to split up, but real-life romances are not as celebrated.

TRUE LOVEThey happen. In all time periods, classes, places, and people-groups, true love has a way of making ordinary life rather extraordinary.

As we’ve toured the Biltmore the past few weeks in Book Journeys, we’ve had opportunity to see the beautiful creation George Vanderbilt envisioned when he first entered the mountains years before his grand estate was finished, but of all the beautiful things the estate housed…the relationship between George and his wife, Edith, was probably the most memorable for me.

George Vanderbilt surprised his love, Edith, in 1898 when he brought her to his romantic castle in Asheville after their wedding. Here is Edith's engagement photo.:
Edith’s Engagement Photo – Pinterest

George was considered a confirmed bachelor and Edith an ‘old’ maid at the time the two of them began an attachment. Having been among the same circles for years, it wasn’t until one of George’s friends encouraged the two of them to spend time together as they traveled aboard ship to France, that a romance began to bloom.


George’s more introverted and bookish personality bloomed in Edith’s vibrant and social wake. There was a genuine excitement about their marriage to each other, and despite the immaculate wealth of the Vanderbilts, they both chose a fairly simple wedding.

George W. Vanderbilt canceled his booking aboard Titanic the day before her scheduled departure. Supposedly, his mother convinced him that maiden voyages were too troublesome.:
George W. Vanderbilt – Pinterest

The Philadelphia Record reported this of the wedding: It was a union of quiet contentment…There probably never was so unostentatious a Vanderbilt wedding since the family made its millions. It is true that the church was full of costumes and the company was very fine, but there was an altogether marked quietness of tone and an absence of display.


After a four month honeymoon abroad, they returned home…man and wife, with great fanfare from the townspeople, tenants, and servants from Biltmore. The tenants lined the road as George and Edith rode forward and in the quiet of their first evening in their magnificent home, fireworks lit the night sky.

The classic story of a father's love: George #Vanderbilt and Cornelia Vanderbilt. #Biltmore:
George with his daughter Cornelia – Pinterest

They both had an abiding love for learning and bringing education to others. With their quick minds and compassion, they opened schools of various kinds for the mountain people of Appalachia and took a surprising interest in the meekest and poorest of those people within their influence.


Biltmore’s New Star “A new star has appeared at famous Biltmore, and the charming mistress of this most gorgeous home is smiling upon her first born, a tiny girl called Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt...”:
Edith with her daughter Cornelia – Pinterest 


Edith Vanderbilt’s reputation was one of sophistication, grace, and the unique ability to relate to people of all different social classes and rank, which would become one of her most memorable features to the servants and townspeople of Biltmore. George was a visionary with a generous heart.

Biltmore truly became a ‘home’ for them, especially when their only child, Cornelia, was born.

George and Edith Vanderbilt at Bucksprings Lodge:
George and Edith Vanderbilt at Bucksprings Lodge – Pinterest

Though their marriage ended too soon with George’s untimely death only sixteen years after they married, their legacy of compassion, ingenuity, and helping-others-help-themselves continued on in Edith’s life. She pursued her and George’s dream by selling a large portion of land to the United States Forest Service to create Pisgah National Forest. Her legacy, and Biltmore’s, continued and still goes on today…but the ‘story’ of their romance is worth telling.


I hope to do that some day 😊

Faith, Friends, and Storytelling

acfwalleycatsLast weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference. I’ve been going to ACFW for five years now and over that time I’ve developed great connections with remarkable people, met some of my dearest friends (Go, Alleycats!!), and cultivated a deeper understanding of the ‘call’ God’s placed on my heart as a writer.

alleycatsI am a writer.

My Granny called me one when I was about ten years old, and I joyfully accept the mission. God just happened to sprinkle powdered sugar on top of my life by giving me an amazing group of writers to share the journey.

Tweet: ACFW is so more than meeting editors and making profitable connections. It’s a braided blessing of fellowship, worship, learning, and encouragement.

francineI’m reminded of this truth every September I’ve joined hundreds of writers, editors, publishers, marketers, daydreamers, and world-weavers.

We are taught great courses. The ones I took in marketing were particularly fantastic this year.

We develop amazing friendships. I absolutely love the camaraderie honed among professional daydreamers who love Jesus.

We worship. At the heart of this calling and these friendships is a bond bound by grace.12027752_10207297498386565_6334955013657674308_n

We find and give encouragement. Because the writing road has more twists than a pretzel, finding other journey-ers acfwjulie'sangels2along the way helps the stragglers stay the course and shores up the discouraged.

We create hope-filled stories. And encourage others to spread the endearing truth to the world through words.

What a gift!

Fun Posts and a new Review

Hey guys,

I’m blogging at The Writers Alley on Monday about the Green Eyed Monster 😉

But Sunday, don’t forget to stop by and check out Jennifer Slattery’s post-conference tips.

And my review for Deeanne Gist’s newest novel, Love on the Line, is up at

Post-Crit Review


the contest entries are back in hand, or you’ve received your crit partners response to your newest chapter.

What you have before you is your precious manuscript covered in red remarks.

What happens now?

Well, besides the usual initial response of throwing the paper across the room, blurting out something unkind, screaming into a pillow, or devouring large quantities of chocolate- after the storm has subsided there are a few things to consider.

The first thing I do (after the initial shock has worn off) is PRAY.

I believe that God has called me into the world of writing fiction, therefore these words/stories are important to him. If I’m receiving valuable feedback for those stories, I want Him to guide the critiquers comments and my reaction.

Next – I reread the comments and sort them into categories:

– comments made by one judge (or only made once) versus comments made by more than one judge (or repeated several times by the critiquer)

– Categorize comments: grammatical, plot, characterization, dialogue, other

Usually at this point I need to pray again. Prayer for my reaction, for how I interpret those comments, AND for the story God wants me to write in view of those comments. Sometimes it’s okay to step outside the box, but other times we need to be aware that people with more experience are trying to help us along the writing journey.

Then I will start taking some of those comments and modify my work.

What do you do with those critiques?

Growing Challenging Characters – A Spectrum of Possibilities

Ya know, I was going to write about characterization from the Bible today, but I wanted to share something a little different today.

As some of you may know, I am a speech-language pathologist (by day) – with a special interest in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Almost every day, I get the opportunity to work with some amazing kids and adults who view the world a little differently (or a lot differently)

There is a great quote from the HBO movie Temple Grandin, I’d like to share with you. Temple Grandin’s mother was talking to Temple’s teacher- the teacher said:

“Temple is different.”

Mom said, “Different, not less.”


This way of processing info might lead to areas of need or disorder, but viewing the world in a unique way is not a disorder in and of itself. Or at least, I don’t see it that way.

Can it be frustrating? You bet. Infuriating? Sure. Heartbreaking? Of course – and that’s true for the parents, the professionals, AND the children themselves, but it can also be many other beautiful things. Amazing, exhilarating, fun, brilliant, insightful…those too.

Many of the individuals are the most sincere and genuinely kind people I’ve ever met.

Now, with characterization in mind:

I’ve promised myself that one day I’m going to write a romantic comedy where the hero is an Aspie (an affectionate term for individuals with Asperger’s syndrome- a ‘high functioning’ form of Autism. In fact, I have two novels in mind, but to write him really well, it’s going to be hard work.

You see, many of the Aspie or Auties in my life are pretty amazing. Their genuineness, honesty, and kindness are often hidden behind nonverbal communication that doesn’t portray those qualities. Since most of us are hard-wired to show and read facial expression and body language, we give off the right signals to others. We show the ‘appropriate’ smile or frown, the appropriate ‘attention’ and eye contact – but that’s not usually strengths for people on the Autism Spectrum.

Some people might not agree with my point of view – but I hope I’ve learned to ‘think outside the box’ a little by learning from all the wonderful people in my life.

So, I have two different books in mind where I hope to portray the beautiful ‘hearts’ of Aspies. Writing ANY character requires knowing him/her, though.

So what do you do to get to know your characters?

A character sketch? Profile? Do you fill out a form?

How do you make your characters 3 dimensional? Any pointers you want to share?

Do you have a wonderful story about someone you know who has Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome?

Storybuilding Places – Inspirations from the click of a camera

Are you guys as crazy as I am? Do you take your camera with you everywhere?

I do.

Because I never know when I might walk into a place of inspiration. A sunset. A interesting panoramic scene. A historic bit of information.

Who knows!?!

In fact, I’ve taken pictures of places that are a part of my novels. Let me show you.

For my contemporary romance, I have two settings. The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and the rolling hills of Derbyshire, England. Not only that, but I have the perfect manor house I use as the inspiration for the 600 year old manor house in my novel.

Here are a few pictures. One is of the Blue Ridge Mountains – my heroine’s home

Next is a picture of the hills of Debyshire – my hero’s home

And third is Haddon Hall, a manor house in Derbyshire and the ‘model’ for my mysterious backstory.

Isn’t it beautiful?

 Since most of my novels are inspired by my home in the Blue Ridge, many of my contemporary novels are influenced by that world and culture.  The uniqueness of Appalachia, the importance of oral history, and the quirky culture makes it the perfect fuel for story ideas 🙂 I have family members who are just waiting to creep on a novel page in some form or other 🙂

With my historical novel, I needed inspiration that showed WWI, England, and the setting of the magnificent ocean liner, Lusitania. For me, the setting becomes a part of the story – especially in my historical. (I didn’t take these pictures, of course 🙂

 WWI reflects the internal struggle of her hero and heroine.

The cold stone of my heroine’s home reflects the relationship she had with her father and has with her sister.

And the Lusitania is a mirror of the pretension in her world.

All the wealth and prestige in the world could not protect those travelers from the devastation of a German torpedo.

What about you? Do you have pictures you’ve taken to inspire your work? Have you found some online? Does your setting reflect your story in any way?

Writing Dialogue with The Woman At the Well

Ever just been WOWED by a scene in a book? Maybe the descriptions bloomed with detail, the characters flickered to life, or the plot gripped at your heartstrings like candy in the hands of a 3 year old.

Or maybe…

Something in the dialogue captured you and deepened ALL of the above.

Ever read a scene like that? Where dialogue opened the door to deeper characters and plot?

Well, it happens right here in the story of The Samaritan Woman.

A few important things to note:

  1. This is one of the longest scenes in the book of John
  2. The pace slows considerably (to draw attention to it)
  3. Jesus talks to a WOMAN
  4. Not only THAT, he talks to a SAMARITAN WOMAN
  5. AND…. A woman with HER kind of background (VERY taboo for a single, Jewish, righteous sort-of-guy)


Do you think John is trying to get our attention here?

Jesus defies convention to get to the heart of the matter. He’s more concerned about PEOPLE than popularity.

Because, God is in the business of rescuing his kids – especially the ones who know they are broken. Outcasts…searching.

This woman had been searching for love for years. Five husbands later, she still hasn’t found it. She’s parched. Dry. Thirsting to death for a love that will never satisfy.

Ever been there?

Then Jesus comes and offers her the one thing her heart truly needs. Real love. Living water. The heart’s only thirst-quencher.

It changes her life.

What about the writing tip?

The dialogue for this story teaches us some important techniques to use in our own writing.

Make each phrase count.

Don’t spend your time placing a conversation into a place where you don’t need one.

Move the story forward with dialogue

Similar to the first one, dialogue should move the story forward. Create more depth. Gives us more understanding about the characters and plot. We learn more about Jesus through this conversation. He doesn’t mind defying conventions to heal a wounded heart. He seeks out the destitute and broken instead of waiting for them to come to him. He is not afraid of the hard questions. He is confident of who He is and His purpose.

And it transforms the woman’s life. As it changes ours.

 Make it realistic

The conversation isn’t ask a question – answer a question.

It’s more realistic, with questions going unanswered, redirections, changing the subject….

All the things that happen in natural conversations are the things that help make our dialogues more realistic.

 Pick up a Bible and read John 4 from a new perspective – as both an author and a seeker of Living Water.

Your thirst for answers, refreshment, and satisfaction is sure to be quenched.

What are some tips you use to keep your dialogue realistic and with forward momentum?


Pictures courtesy of:

Nicodemus and Setting a Scene

If you’ve not been following along, last week I started a new series.

A little different than my usual kind.

We’re applying ‘scenes’ from the Gospel of John to the world of writing. (or I’m trying to do that)

Last week, it was the stories of Jesus’ call to the 12 disciples and Jesus’ first miracle.  To find out how those applied to the craft of writing, check ‘em out 🙂

This week, we’re visiting the story of Nicodemus and The Samaritan Woman.


Let’s chat.

The story of Nicodemus is a great one about what salvation really is. Here are the verses from John 3.

(Note the bold)

1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

 3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[a]

 4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”[d]

 9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

   10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.[e] 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”[g]

 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

First of all, Nicodemus was one of the ‘good’ guys. A Pharisee. The men who KNEW the Bible. Kept the ‘letter’ of the Law. (notice, I said ‘letter’ and not ‘spirit’. I think we all struggle with this at some point). But unlike some of the other Pharisees, Nicodemus was willing to humble himself to discover the truth from Jesus. Take the risk.

The main heart of this Scripture is that salvation comes from God. No one can birth themselves. To be born again – born of God – it requires God’s amazing call of our hearts. The sin we are naturally born with must be abolished for us to be right with God, so God has to start over with our hearts. Give us new birth.

How does this apply to writing?

Setting a scene.

We interepret this entire scene differently because of one simple phrase. Nicodemus came to Jesus ‘by night’. That tells us more about Nicodemus and Jesus. Nicodemus was afraid of the other Pharisees response and Jesus was willing to talk to him at any time.

What does this say about how setting is involved in your story?

Setting changes things. The same conversation can happen on a beach, during a wedding, or on the decks of a sinking ship, and it completely changes the way we view the conversation. Added tension or humor, modify the words and perspectives of the people engaged in dialogue.

If your novel is set in a barren place, does it emulate the barrenness of in your character’s heart or womb? Does the lushness of the surroundings show the growth of a relationship?

In my historical romance (wip), the catastrophe of WWI is an outward symbol of the devastation happening in my heroine’s heart.

What about you? Does your setting have a particular meaning in your story?

Love at First Thought with Deb Raney

Another great day for Love at First Thought, and today I have award-winning author, Deb Raney.

Deb is a fabulous resource of information and encouragement. I met her three years ago at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in North Carolina – and have looked forward to seeing her each consecutive year. Truly, she’s as sweet as she looks.

Here’s her Love at First Thought:

My first novel, A Vow to Cherish, is about a family dealing with the wife’s diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Early in our marriage, my husband and I worked in the occupational therapy department of a large nursing home in New York. We worked with many patients with dementia and I realize now that working there, I was doing the research for a novel I wouldn’t write for many years. But when friends of my parents, and then grandparents of our children’s friends were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I remembered my time working with such patients in the nursing home. Soon, the idea for A Vow to Cherish began to form, and once I started writing, it was just five months before I had a finished first draft. That book was contracted just a few weeks before Ronald Reagan announced his own diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, and in 1998, it became a feature-length film from World Wide Pictures.

Wow, Deb – what a story!!! I know from personal experience what a difficult journey it can be.

Thanks for your insight and inspiration.

I’ll add an Inspirational Thought on Friday. In the meantime, may the Lord bless your day with inspirational thoughts and beautiful blessings.