Monday, July 24, 2017

Developing a Daily Devotional

Don Atkinson
Click to Buy
Author of Day by Day in Ephesians
Founder of Day by Day Ministry


       Regarding content and structure, there are two basic types of Christian daily devotionals—thematic and expository.  The majority of Christian devotionals fit the thematic category in which the author moves from one Christian theme to the other with each daily devotional.  In the expository category, the author explains one or more verses of Scripture in each daily devotional.  In Day by Day in Ephesians, I ranged from part of a verse, to one verse, to two or more verses in each daily devotional.   

      The author first decides what Scripture will be covered.  The thematic devotional usually revolves around a biblical topic such as faith.  Then, Scriptures are normally utilized from various books of the Bible.  Or the author may wish to base the devotional (expository) on an entire book of the Bible.  This was my approach in Day by Day in Ephesians.  In most cases, the Scripture verses are dealt with chronologically.  This methodology maintains the organization and thought patterns of the biblical text.

      For the thematic devotional, the author can enlist the aid of variety of biblical resource materials on the selected theme.  Bible commentaries are particularly helpful for the author of the expository devotional.  If a fairly technical commentary is being used, one must remember not to include detailed or complex theological information in a daily devotional.  The daily devotional is oriented toward the typical “person in the pew”—not toward Bible college or seminary students and graduates.

      Because of the brevity of a daily devotional (approximately 300 words), the author must be careful to select only a few verses for each devotional.  The subject matter of the specific verses helps the author make this decision.  The theological depth of the verses also impacts the author’s decision.  In Ephesians, Paul wrote from a  deep theological perspective.  Consequently, I usually dealt with just one or two verses of Scripture in Day by Day in Ephesians.  This enabled me to adequately interpret the Scripture covered in the devotional.
     I always include the entire verse or verses covered that day just below the title.  I like to put the Scripture quotation in a different font than the remainder of the devotional text.  I believe this draws attention to the Scripture, which is the basis for the expository devotional.  To further set off the Scripture, I indent the quotation a few spaces from both the left and right margins. 

      To help draw the reader’s attention, I suggested the author develop catchy, attention-getting titles for each daily devotional.  In some cases, the title may seem strange to the reader until the Scripture and its accompanying narrative are read and reflected upon.  Then the reader can see the theme or concept being emphasized by the title.  Often I used a portion of the Scripture for my title.  For instance, one title I used in Day by Day in Ephesians was:  BE CAREFUL HOW YOU WALK.  This was taken directly from a part of Eph. 5:15.  In Ephesians, Paul frequently used “walk” as a metaphor for the Christian’s day-to-day lifestyle or conduct. 

      Subheadings are useful in alerting the reader that the author is shifting from one idea to another.  This feature is especially important when dealing with Scripture that is fairly deep theologically.  I frequently use a portion of the Scripture verse as a subheading.
      In addition, I often italicize what I perceive to be key theological concepts or terms in each daily devotional.  I believe it is helpful to the average reader to highlight these concepts so they will not be overlooked.

      Most daily devotional readers have not attended a bible college or seminary.  Therefore, the typical reader is not familiar with jargon such as “pneumatology.”  In the Greek language pneuma means “spirit.”  Consequently, pneumatology is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.  When writing devotionals, I continually avoid using terms such as pneumatology so I do not lose the reader. 

      In some devotionals I include a short summary paragraph.  I believe it is beneficial for many readers to reflect on just one or two sentences that summarize all that was said above.  Always I conclude with a literary device that I entitled: Thought for the Day.  As here, I bold Thought for the Day (located at the bottom of the page) to bring it to the reader’s attention.  Frequently, I ask one or two questions of the reader which flow out of the truth presented in the daily devotional.  In other cases, I ask the reader to reflect on a thought found in that day’s devotional.

May you “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”  (2 Peter 3:18) as you read, reflect on, and apply the truths God presents in His epistle to the Ephesians.
—Don E. Atkinson
Today we're talking about a different kind of writing. Outside the usual fiction. Let's talk about ideas YOU have to wander in your writing life. Have you ever written a devotional? A different genre in fiction? Any non-fiction? How about a poem or a song? Blog posts are their own style of writing, too, any bloggers who want to speak up? Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for a copy of Day by Day in Ephesians. 
Find Don online at:

   Blog written by Don E. Atkinson, author of Day by Day in Ephesians.  For more information about Don and his daily devotional, visit his website: 

 Don E. Atkinson was born and raised in Lincoln, NE. He attended Southern Nazarene University (formerly Bethany Nazarene College) and Colorado State University securing a Bachelor of Science degree. Later he obtained his Master of Science degree from Texas A&M University. He completed a significant amount of coursework towards a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS).
     Don is the founder of Day by Day in the Word ministry. He has been active in his local church teaching adult Bible studies and preaching, as needed. Married in December of 1982, Don and his wife have three grown children.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Weekend Edition


If you are not familiar with our giveaway rules, take a minute to read them here. It keeps us all happy! All winners should send their name, address, and phone number to claim prizes. Send to

Bonton is the winner Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection. This collection features many of your favorite Seekerville friends including, Natalie Monk, Erica Vetsch, Susanne Dietze, Gabrielle Meyer, Jaime Jo Wright, Michelle Griep and Kathleen Y'Barbo (and new to us authors Jennifer Uhlarik and Anne Love).  Winner announced in the next Weekend Edition.

Monday: Janet Dean was your hostess and she took us to the beach to talk about "Beach Reads." Sandy Smith is the winner of a $15 Amazon gift card.

Tuesday: We brought you "How to Build Your Fire When Your Wood’s Still Wet" with Genesis finalist, Cynthia Herron. Jeanne T is the winner of lunch, coffee, and books!

Wednesday: Debby Giusti turned in the third book in her Amish Protectors series on Monday and was be ready to have some fun on Seekerville. She shared "Capturing Stories from the Headlines." Trixi and Terri W won a copy of Debby's Publishers Weekly bestseller, Amish Refuge, the first book in her Amish Protectors series, as well as a coloring book and colored pencils, along with a copy of The Writer's Prayer and The Reader's Prayer. Debby will also include a coupon for $1 off your next Love Inspired book purchase.

Thursday: Rachel Hauck returned to Seekerville with her post, "The Story Equation." Seekerville is giving away an ecopy and a print copy of The Writing Deska Romantic Times TopPick!  Winner of an ecopy is Vince and winner of a print copy is Cate Nolan.

Monday: Mary Connealy brings us, guest, Don Atkinson with a post on "Developing Devotionals."

Tuesday:  Seekerville is thrilled to have the 2016 Mt. Hermon, Writer of the Year,  Karen Barnett with us today. Her post is called, "Making Every Scene Count." One lucky commenter will win a copy of The Road to Paradise: A Vintage National Parks Novel. All you Mount Ranier National Park fans, be sure to stop by!

Wednesday: Come join Ruthy (Ruth Logan Herne) today as she offers the final post about writing cozy mysteries: "Cozying Up to Your Characters!" She's got a copy of A Light in the Darkness to give away to a lucky commenter and delightful insights about making your cozy mystery light up the darkness all on its own.

Thursday: Sandra Leesmith will share some ideas on how those of us who are not attending the RWA Conference in Orlando, Florida can study the craft of writing. Join her today and learn about "Online Classes. "

Friday: The Best of the Archives featuring a classic post from our ten years of blogging. Comments are closed on Fridays to catch up on reading and writing.

Look what arrived on Debby Giusti's doorstep...
Undercover Amish, book 2 in her Amish Protector series.
Preorder yours here.

Look for Debby Giusti at the "Readers for Life", Literacy Autographing at the RWA 37th Annual Conference at the Walt Disney  Dolphin Resort, Orlando, Florida,
Saturday, July 29, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. ET.
 Details here.
From RWA "At the "Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing, hundreds of romance authors meet with and sign books for fans in this two-hour event, with the proceeds from book sales going to literacy organizations.In 2016, Romance Writers of America raised more than $39,000 to benefit literacy programs—bringing our total donations since 1990 to $ 1 million!"

The CFRR is coming August 12, featuring your favorite authors, including Seekers Debby Giusti & Ruth Logan Herne.

Some really COOL news! Pam Hillman's August release,
The Promise of Breeze Hill is featured in the Heritage and
Culture section of the August issue of Mississippi Magazine

A Lovable rogue. A wary secretary. Caught in a downpour of love! Pre-order Julie Lessman's Grace Like Rain and be entered to win a character named after you in her next book, a signed copy, and a $50 gift card OR ten top CBA new releases! PLUS ... read the first chapter! Note: Formerly part of the With This Kiss collection.
You'll find all details HERE!

HO-HO-HO! The O’Connors are back! See what’s cooking’ for Christmas with Charity & Mitch and Lizzie & Brady from Julie Lessman’s Daughters of Boston series. Pre-order either novellas and be entered to win a character named after you in Julie’s next book, a signed copy, and a $50 gift card OR ten top CBA new releases!  Note: formerly part of the Seeker Christmas collections.

You'll find all details HERE!

She's the "accident" to his prayers! 
What happens when a runaway ex-saloon girl becomes a nanny 
for a pastor and his three girls? Pre-order Julie Lessman's Frontier Christmas novella and find out! PLUS be entered to win a character named after you in Julie's next book,  a signed copy, and a $50 gift card OR ten top CBA new releases! Note: formerly part of the Cowboy Christmas Homecoming collection.
                                             You'll find all details HERE!

And Ruthy wants to thank RWA at Large Director Barbara Wallace for featuring the ideas of Virtual Writing Retreats in the current RWR which is the perfect segue to this. There is still time to sign up for Seekerville's "Kick The Summer Doldrums to the Curb" Virtual Writer's Retreat August 13-20... e-mail Ruthy at and she'll sign you up to spend a pretend week at the gorgeous Rocky Ridge Ranch in the hills of Western Idaho! Over 40 people have signed up so far... and the more the merrier! Don't let summer, kids, vacation, heat and humidity mess with your dream. You can't always control the environment. But you can control the effort you put in!

Thanks for the link love.

The RWA 2017 Conference in Orlando starts next week.You can follow all the fun on Twitter at #RWA17. Debby Giusti will be bringing back all the deets. And keep an eye on the Golden Heart Awards..our own Laura Conner Kestner and Dianna Shuford are finalists! Check out all the Rita & GH finalists here.

The GH winners will be announced on Thursday, July 27 from 12:15 to 2 pm ET.  The Rita Awards will be streaming at on Thursday, July 27, from 7-9 pm ET. The Harlequin Pajama Party is open to all! Subscribe to RWA here on Youtube for videos as they appear.

Real Artists Don’t Starve. Creativity And Money With Jeff Goins (The Creative Penn)


Barbour Publishing Becomes Employee-owned Company (Times Reporter)

Kindle Unlimited ebook subscription – 12 things to know (EBook Friendly)

Authors and Marketing Fatigue (The Book Designer)

New Agent at Steve Laube Agency -Check out his blog post here (Steve Laube Blog)

Lizzie Poteet, an editor with St. Martin's Press is now an agent with the Seymour Agency. Details here.

Exclusive cover reveal: ‘Second Chances’ anthology by RWA (plus excerpt!) (USA HEA BLOG)

9 Ways To Get The Very Best Out Of Your Book Cover Designer (The Creative Penn)

3 Reasons You Don't Need a Character Arc (Fiction University)

Leave a comment today and you could win an autographed copy of one of
Mary Connealy's
The Cimarron Legacy series.
No Way Up (2017 Carol Award Finaling release) or newly released Long Time Gone.
Two winners announced in the next Weekend Edition.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Best of the Archives: The End!

This post by Cara Lynn James first appeared
 in Seekerville on August 25, 2011.
 Comments are closed today so we can catch up 
with our reading and writing!

The End--two of the most satisfying words an author can write. My fourth manuscript for Thomas Nelson is due a week from today and I’m rushing toward the end with less than 1,000 words to go and one more scene to write. Then I can celebrate and breathe easy for a few weeks!

I like to write the ending of a manuscript not just because it signals the culmination of a long project, but also because I actually enjoy the process as opposed to developing middles. By the time I arrive at the last act I know my characters and plot so well it’s easy to write. Relatively. Unlike the beginning, there are only so many ways to conclude a story. And unlike ‘sagging middles,’ the ending is relatively short. It’s the resolution of conflicts that many of us don’t like writing because we like our characters to get along and be happy.

The forces that you’ve developed during the middle of the book will collide at the climax. Something has to give—things can’t keep going the way they were. Peaceful Endings are anti-climactic and disappointing to the reader. Can anyone think of a satisfying resolution that didn’t involve some kind of confrontation between the forces in opposition?

You must use the same characters, tensions, and conflicts etc. that are developing through the story at the conclusion. No fair bringing in the cavalry to bail out your characters!

The ending has to fulfill the promise you made to your reader throughout the story. Did you promise love? Or justice? Or terror? Don’t promise love and then deliver only heart-stopping terror. If it’s romantic suspense, you’ll want the plot to resolve, but you also want the love between the hero and heroine to come together, too.

It’s a good idea to list the forces you’ve set into conflict earlier so you’ll remember to deal with each and every one of them. No loose ends or your reader will feel dissatisfied and cheated!

Most story endings have two parts: the climax and the denouement.

The climax is the clash of the forces at the big, important story event that brings it all together. It often shows how the protagonist has changed. It’s the payoff.

The climax should do four things:

1. It must satisfy the view of life implied in your story.

2. It must deliver emotion—especially important in a romance.

3. It must deliver the appropriate level of emotion.

4. It must be logical to the plot and believable for the characters.

The ending grows out of who the characters are. The climax usually takes at least a chapter, sometimes several chapters.

The denouement comes after the climax. Its function is to wrap up the story. It shows the reader the consequences of the plot and the fate of any characters that are not accounted for in the climax. To be successful it has three characteristics: closure, brevity, and dramatization.

Once you satisfy all these things you can write The End and smile at your accomplishment-- unless you have an Epilogue, but that’s a topic for another post.

Do you have a favorite section to write? Any reason why?

Cara Lynn James currently lives with her family in northwest Florida. She's lived in Vermont, Virginia, California, Texas, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Her historical romances in the Ladies of Summerhill series all take place in Newport, Rhode Island during the Gilded Age. You can find her on Facebook, or Twitter.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Story Equation

with guest Rachel Hauck.

Working on my 25th novel, I feel less of an expert on novel writing than ever. How is it the things I teach seem to elude me when I write?

Before starting a novel, I spend about a month dreaming and developing the characters.

Whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, knowing who you are writing about from the start is paramount.

Readers don’t really care about plots. They care about characters. The depth and detail in which you create your protagonists will determine the details of your plot.

Being writing partners with Susan May Warren for the past twelve years has taught me a lot.

We’ve matured together in our knowledge of the craft, but Suz is a master at putting ideas together in a teachable form.

For years we’ve taught the Lie Journey then formulated it into the Story Equation. Better known as the SEQ.

I never start a book without this little gem.

This graphic is the basic Story Equation. We’ve added are a few more “dots” along the circle but this basic formula should inspire your creative genius.

I know, it doesn’t look like much of an equation — I call it the story cookie — but the factors (ha! like how I did that?) you find here will help you develop strong characters to drive a compelling plot.

As you can see, the wound, lie, and fear surround the Dark Moment.

The Dark Moment is that “thing” that happened in the past to your protagonist. OR something she did in the past. This moment and the wound it created is what will heal in your protagonist as the story progresses.

The DM can be anything from parents divorcing, abuse, physical trauma to a broken heart, to neglect or outright rebellion.

The Dark Moment must be specific, relatable and poignant. 

Usually, the best Dark Moment happened to the protagonist when she was a child. Children cannot process events like teens or adults so trauma impacts them significantly. It changes their world view. 

 Death, divorce, abuse, seeing something they shouldn’t are all good DM launches. But remember, it must be specific, relatable and poignant.

This DM then forms a wound. From the wound, a lie develops.

One of my characters, Susanna, from Once Upon A Prince was a young girl when her parents divorced. Until then, they fought bitterly, throwing plates and four letter words at each other.

During these episodes, Susanna hid in her closet and pretended it was a beautiful garden.
As a result, she developed a wound: her parents did not love her or each other. Her world was unsafe.

This wound became a lie: she must take care of herself. No one else will.

Which matured into a fear: she could not let go of her securities, her plans, her very ordered life.

She grew up to become a landscape architect and a planner. She wanted her world orderly and safe. So when her long-time boyfriend breaks up with her, she is thrown back into those turbulent childhood wounds and lies.

Make sense?

I’m skimming the surface a bit with Susanna’s story but you can see how the DM from her childhood formed her thinking and impacted her world view.

These elements hold your character back from realizing her dreams. (P.S. You need to do this with your hero as well.)

However! The Secret Desire is dying to be released and realized. 

But it’s buried deep in your protagonist’s soul. It’s the thing she longs for — the hope of God has given her — more than anything but is terrified to attempt. 

The inciting incident awakens this desire and it comes knocking. “I want out. I want out. I want out.”

Make the secret desire the opposite of the fear. Again, the more specific you make these elements, the more dynamic the character. 

So there’s your basic Story Equation: Dark Moment of the past is an event that creates a wound which leads to a lie which develops into a fear. But the God-given secret desire is about to change everything.

This journey formulates the epiphany and a profound change for your character by the end of the book. 

Now, check out my new release The Writing Desk to see if I accomplished this in any way shape or form. (Snicker!)

Do you have any questions about SEQ? Can you see your story fitting into The Story Equation?

To find learn more about the SEQ visit



Know your character
Know what they want
What the story is about

  • Find the through line - Robert McKee ( a theme or idea that runs from the beginning to the end.) Knowing your character and what drives them and you can define it in one sentence, then you know your character and you know your story.


Dining with Joy

She wants to win her dead father’s approval. So she takes on his show. She thinks she wants OUT of the show but she can’t until she discovers how much he loved her.
Benjamin Martin in the Patriot 

Wanted to keep his family safe. Peace. It drove him. So war comes to his front yard and demands he participate to GET what he wants.  


Keep the characters moving and talking. Not musing in their heads.


What is going on in the world around them? 
It can't be Nothing. 
Have to enter into their NOW world. What’s going on now?


What do they want and what’s keeping them from it.


Dining with Joy

She wanted out of the show. She couldn’t cook. But people were counting on her. Her family. The show. Some pleasure in having fame. And to keep her promise to her Daddy.

The Proposal (the movie)

She wants to stay in America to keep her job. He wanted a promotion. Each scene builds around these overall WANTS. Something keeps the protagonist from getting what they want.

Opening scene: Drew’s tension. He is late for work. The whole opening shows Drew’s want and tension. He’s late. He spilled coffee. 

Her opening is she has to fire Bob is and called a Bee-ach. There’s tension in how she’s in command. But when she’s told she is being deported, which she bought on herself, we get how devastating this is to her. Story tension must drop down and create scene tension

What they want + obstacles = scene tension


Words count.
Mean things.
The dialog has to tell the story.
“Tell the story between the quotes.”
  Use the dialog to up the tension.
Say what they’re thinking.

Keep the pacing up. Don’t spend too much time in detail. Or describing things. 
Don’t write in circles.


Dining with Joy


Short, choppy sentences with active verbs signal tension. Think of the text mirroring your protagonist's racing heart. Long, meandering sentences filled with adjectives and adverbs imply a relaxed pace. Varying the format of the text will shoot tension into key moments of each scene.

The more personal the better. 

Make it as personal as possible.

  • SEQ
The reason you want to discover your characters and your story is because you want to know where you're going so you CREATE the right tension. It is a more efficient use of your time.

Leave a comment today to win a copy of The Writing Desk. Two winners. One copy of The Writing Desk is up for grabs in ebook and one in print. Winner announced in the next Weekend Edition.

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Wedding Dress comes a new captivating novel of secrets, romance, and two women bound together across time by a shared dream.

Tenley Roth’s first book was a runaway bestseller. Now that her second book is due, she’s locked in fear. Can she repeat her earlier success or is she a fraud who has run out of inspiration?

With pressure mounting from her publisher, Tenley is weighted with writer’s block. But when her estranged mother calls asking Tenley to help her through chemotherapy, she packs up for Florida where she meets handsome furniture designer Jonas Sullivan and discovers the story her heart’s been missing.

A century earlier, another woman wrote at the same desk with hopes and fears of her own. Born during the Gilded Age, Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of the old money Knickerbockers. Under the strict control of her mother, her every move is decided ahead of time, even whom she’ll marry. But Birdie has dreams she doesn’t know how to realize. She wants to tell stories, write novels, and make an impact on the world. When she discovers her mother has taken extreme measures to manipulate her future, she must choose between submission and security or forging a brand new way all on her own.

Tenley and Birdie are from two very different worlds, but fate has bound them together in a way time cannot erase.

Special Bonus!! "The USA Today HEA blog unveiled the cover of Second Chances, a romance anthology arriving Sept. 12 from Romance Writers of America and featuring stories from some of your favorite authors. They're also sharing an excerpt from Rachel Hauck’s included story, Love Is in the Air." Check it out here!

Rachel Hauck is an award winning, New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author.

Her book The Wedding Dress was named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times. She is a double RITA finalist, a Christy and Carol Award Winner.

Rachel sits on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers and is the comical sidekick to Susan May Warren at My Book Therapy. She is a worship leader and speaker.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, Rachel is a devoted Ohio State football fan. She lives in sunny central Florida with her husband and ornery cat.