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Welcome to The Inkwell, the blog site of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) of Colorado.

Each week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, you can find a wide variety of topics and insight
from inspiration to instruction to humor and more!

For detailed information on ACFW, click here to visit their main website.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Language of Love

L is for the way you look at me
O is for the only one I see
V is very, very extraordinary
E is even more than anyone that you adore

Love is all that I can give to you
Love is more than just a game for two
Two in love can make it
Take my heart and please don't break it
Love was made for me and you

The above song, L-O-V-E, made popular by Nat King Cole, has been heard throughout the airwaves for over forty years. It whispers “you’re special and adored,” and air brushes pictures of hope, possibility, happiness, commitment, and promise.

Everyone wants to be loved, be it Ebenezer Scrooge from Dickens’s The Christmas Carole, or the Grinch from Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Whether romance, suspense, thriller, action, sci-fi, fantasy or mystery, each story character, even the villain, has a special love language—something that makes them tick and feel valuable. Something that fills them up and brings warmth to their heart, even if for a brief moment.

In his book, The Five Love Languages, (Northfield Publishing) Gary Chapman addresses these love languages and breaks them down into five categories:
  • Words of affirmation
  • Quality time
  • Receiving gifts
  • Acts of service
  • Physical touch
Just as the Myers-Briggs, Carl Jung, Lowery True Color, or Smalley/Grant Lion-Beaver-Otter-Golden Retriever personality identifiers can help a writer profile their characters, so can The Five Love Languages. Let’s use the Grinch, for example. Until Cindy Lou came along no one ever wanted to hang out with Mr. Grinch because he was so awful. He said mean things, did mean things, and pushed himself as far away from society as possible. So if I wanted to introduce a character who would create an opposite effect on him, I would take a hard look at the one thing the Grinch did the most that seemed opposite of his love language. Once I figured out that I would be able to understand his heart better.

Same with good ol’ Ebenezer Scrooge. Dickens already knew what kind of man Scrooge was. All he had to do after that was create a character who was generous rather than stingy (notice the opposite). And because Scrooge’s love language was gifts, Bob Cratchit was able to emotionally give Scrooge the love language he needed.

But what about good guys? And romance? How can the five love languages help there? Take Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. Why is it that they always seemed to be hit-and-miss? Could it be different love languages? Scarlett liked to be wooed and adored. She liked to hear how lovely she was. Unfortunately Rhett wasn’t the words of affirmation type, thus the two of them seemed to fall short of true love throughout the book. And the fact that their love language never met in the middle kept the romantic tension alive and the reader on the edge of their seat, wanting...hoping...that things would turn out okay in the end.

If you don’t have a copy of Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, I recommend you pick one up. It’s not only a good tool for your marriage, but also comes in handy when trying to figure out why your bad guy is bad, or why two good characters just can’t seem to make things work. And who knows? Maybe if the Grinch, Scrooge, Rhett and Scarlett had read the book, they would have discovered that their problems were nothing more than a misunderstood love language. :)

"L-O-V-E," words and music by Bert Kaempfert and Milt Gabler © 1964

Monday, February 22, 2010

Why Supernatural Romance?

Maybe you think I’m a little crazy to try to write supernatural romance for the CBA market. Maybe you think I’m simply following trends in the ABA. Maybe you think I want to be edgy for edginess sake.

The truth is, like most other Christian writers, I feel called to write what I write. And I do it with what I hope is a sensitive ear to God’s prompting.

Yes, the rise of supernatural romance, urban fantasy, and “dark romance” got my attention. I read a few and found things I liked and things I didn’t. But mostly what those books stirred in me was a desire to use the genre to explore elements of The Love that we as Christians believe is the source of all romance.

This subject has already been discussed with insight and finesse by several other bloggers this month. Suffice it to say, God’s love for his children is the basis for all our understanding of love. Jesus’s sacrifice for his bride, the church, is the love story—the one we echo again and again.

I figured, if we can use the romance genre to reflect the love of God in the relationship between a man and a woman, how much more can we do that with supernatural characters?

This is simply another outlet for metaphor and allegory. Just as Donita K. Paul uses the fantasy world of Amara to present an allegory of the Christian walk in The DragonKeeper Chronicles, and Tracey Bateman uses vampirism as a metaphor for alcoholism in Thirsty, so I use a brounie to explore one aspect of love.

A brounie (brownie) is a house spirit or faerie who does chores, cleans up, plows fields, and in one legend, even fetches a doctor for an ailing family member. Maybe you can see why I chose this particular mythical creature to examine the idea that to love is to serve.

Sure, I could do something similar with a self-sacrificing human, but I enjoyed both the challenge and the freedom of developing a character whose very make-up included a totally unselfish desire to love and serve.

Who knows if my novel will go anywhere? Maybe all the viewpoints I mentioned at the start of this entry will negate my chances. But I learned something about the heart of God as I wrote this book. I had the opportunity to study one tiny piece of His great love and that was more than worth all the effort.

Evangeline Denmark has storytelling on her heart and in her
blood. The daughter of novelist, Donita K. Paul, Evangeline grew up
living and breathing good stories. Now she enjoys creating stories of her own. She has co-authored two children's books that are under contract with Waterbrook Press and writes novels as well.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sacrifice and Grace

When I tell someone that I write romantic suspense for the Christian market, I always laugh at the confused expression on their face. I can almost see them picturing a book cover that depicts a half-dressed Fabio sporting angel wings and a halo. Christian romance? Really? Is that even possible?

As a couple others have pointed out in their blog posts this month, we are involved in the greatest romance of all time—a love story that is still being written. “This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only son into the world that we might live through him. This is love. Not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John). This is the kind of romance every soul craves. One that involves sacrifice and forgiveness—one that is based on a foundation of grace and unconditional acceptance.

As I Christian writer, I am convicted to write deeper romance novels. I believe in true love. I know it exists, and I want to communicate God’s love to the world. I take great joy in explaining to those confused people that I write a different kind of romance. One that is not based solely on physical attraction. Yes, there is always a thread of physical chemistry between my hero and heroine, but it is not the driving force in their relationship. In every book, I strive to create a love between two people that emulates Christ’s love for us. One that speaks to every person’s need. It doesn’t matter if you write historicals or mysteries, or science fiction, if you can incorporate self-sacrifice and redemptive grace into your characters’ relationships, you are writing romance, and you will point hungry souls to the one love that will fulfill their every need.


A lifelong storyteller, Sara Richardson is passionate about communicating reasons for hope. Previously she has been an advertising copywriter, an Internet communications manager, and a whitewater rafting guide. In addition to writing fiction, Sara has published nonfiction articles in parenting and family magazines. As a member of MOPS International, Sara enjoys speaking to moms’ groups. She earned a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University. Visit her at

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Love is in the Air!

In keeping with this month's theme of romance, and yet, like I usually do, putting my own twist on it, I'm going to blog about my latest love affair with writing.

I have fallen in love with the Write-Out.

As a refresher, a write-out is where you go OUT to WRITE. Sounds simple enough.

The only problem is the tether tying me to my desk, my email, my fax machine, and my jammies. Okay, I don't actually have jammies, but if I did, they would keep me in my house.

And yet there is that new love calling my name sweetly, promising me many happy hours of productive work, of inspiring phrases, of scenes that just wouldn't get written if I sat in my basement office.

Not to mention the cups of designer coffee I wouldn't get to enjoy.

At the first write-out in January, I completed a whole scene. And before you start to pooh-pooh that, my scenes are around 1500 words. A chapter, to some. At the second write-out, I finished a bunch of revisions and almost another whole scene before my laptop battery died. So, at the next write-out, I realized I needed a place with outlets. Oh, and great coffee, too.

I found that place, a local coffee shop. When I walked in the door, I felt like I was home, only better. The tantalizing smell of fresh brewed java, sitting heavy on the back of my tongue, made me salivate. The quiet, gentle spirit of the store spoke to my need for a place to concentrate. The outlet near a table spoke to my need for power.

Electricity, not control, that is.

While going to a write-out is exciting and inspiring, it isn't easy. There are many reasons to stay home. Laundry calling my name. Weather not the best. Conflicts with the car schedule.

And yet, there are many, many more benefits to going. Proving I am committed to doing what I need to do to write. Doing what is necessary to get the job done. Being willing to give up the comfort of my office chair for the inspiration of having people around me. Being able to bounce an idea off a fellow writer, or ask that famous question, "What do you call it when ---" (you fill in the blank. You know you do that when you can't find the right phrase or word). Brainstorm titles, names, occupations. Flesh out a goal-motivation-conflict profile of a character. Stare out the window at the cars going by and get just the right dialogue out of thin air.

So I am going back there again. I completed yet another scene last week, and this week I'm hoping to meet a few friends at the same shop, fellow writers out for a write-out. Sip some wonderfully decadent coffee. Put my characters in hair-raising, spine-tingling, wet-your-pants trouble. And enjoy some time away from my email, my fax, my desk.

Write-outs are held every week in the Denver area. Tuesday mornings, and the fourth Tuesday evening of the month. Check the website for details, like time and place.

Now, please excuse me. I have someone special to meet -- and yes, my husband knows all about it!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Romance is Everywhere!

Yes, yes. It's true. And I'm not just saying that because yesterday was Valentine's Day. Although, to be honest, it does feel like we get inundated with love and romance, hearts and flowers, chocolates and candy, and everything else that is supposed to remind us of love around this day.

As a romance author, you would think I'd relish the thought. But in all honesty, it somewhat annoys me. Now, before you gasp, let me explain.

Far too often, when I tell people I write romance, their mind automatically goes straight to the type of "romance" that requires a PG-13 or higher rating. They get a picture in their head of a scantily-clad woman draped across the muscled arms of a bare-chested brute with flowing locks clasped together in a rather telling embrace. And that's just the cover! Nevermind what you'll find within the pages of the book. Phew! I'm fanning myself just typing about this.

What's sad is that for a majority of people, that's what romance has become to them. If it's not full of lust, sex, or frequent and expensive/trivial gifts, it's not romance. And my heart breaks at that reality.

If you ask me, I think television, movies, books and media, have ripped away the joys of true romance and caused us to have a rather distorted view of it. Think about TV shows. How many can you name where once the main couple got together, the show died? Or how many movies end with the lead couple sharing their first kiss or consummating their relationship?

Romance is so much more than all of that!

And it can be quite an exhilarating adventure to discover all the many wonderful and delightful nuances associated with the concept. It's in the look, the smile, the touch, the selfless gesture, the thoughtful gift, the assistance with the mundane that gives the other person a much-needed break, the little note left on the front seat of the car or tucked into the lunch bag to be opened at work. It can be wrapped in a surprise getaway or found in a common everyday place around the house.

To me, romance is the little things that happen in a relationship to make it stronger, despite struggles, disagreements and difficult decisions. Life comes at you hard. Romance helps keep you going each day.

And the best part of all? Even if you don't have a spouse of significant other in your life, you can have the greatest romance of all time with your Heavenly Father. His words of love and commitment are tucked within the pages of the Bible, available for your reading pleasure and spiritual awakening/renewal whenever you need it. And He'll always be there, never leaving you, no matter what.

That's the biggest reason I love writing romance. Because the earthly evidence of it merely reflects the love God has for each one of His children. Where do you think romance originated in the first place? And to think...I have the honor and privilege of depicting that love and romance in each one of my books. Life just can't get any better. :)

So, what about you? What are some specific examples of romance in your life that step outside the "norm" or are special to you when they might not be viewed as romance by others? Please share with us. Perhaps they'll spark some new ideas for romance in some of our books. :)

* images used are used with permission from the following sources:,,, and

Tiffany Amber Stockton is an author, online marketing specialist and freelance web site designer who lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart. They have 1 daughter and a border collie. She has sold eight books so far to Barbour Publishing, is a columnist for the ACFW e-zine and writes other articles as well. Read more about her at her web site:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Let Your Characters be Naked

In the genre of Christian Romance, we are told to keep our characters clothed and appropriate at all times. However, as I was listening to a sermon on Genesis, chapter two, last weekend, I started thinking about how important it is for our characters to be naked, based on verse twenty-five – “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” (NKJV)

Ok, before everyone faints from the shock or starts writing me emails, let me explain. True love only occurs when we are totally honest and totally vulnerable with each other. This is true whether we are speaking of love between a man and a woman or between a person and God. We have to be naked before each other. Unfortunately, our characters have a strong desire to find and sew fig leaves.

He is still in contact with his old girlfriend – Fig Leaf

She secretly loves his brother – Fig Leaf

He doesn’t want her to know how he really feels about watching girls through a hold in the locker room wall – Fig Leaf

She is afraid he won’t like her if he finds out her father is in jail – Fig Leaf

It is important to note that the sap from the green parts (including leaves) of fig plants is an irritant which will cause a rash on the skin.

So, we need to take a look at our characters’ fig leaves – the things that come between them. And how to we uncover our characters? Does a person or circumstance yank them away layer after layer? Or do our characters scrub them away to get rid of the itch? Figuring out the answers to these questions and exposing each one is the heart of our story.

Only at the end, when our characters are naked and unashamed with each other, can there be true romance.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Romance of Dialogue

I have a confession to make. I am not a die-hard romance reader. I mean I read romance, but I’d prefer to have a little romance with my action or adventure. So...what can I possibly have to offer about this month’s theme “romantic elements”?

I think I might have spoiled it for myself by reading too many romances where the dialogue was, shall we say, out of character. If you have a character who says “Delphinia, my love, plant your luscious lips on mine,” then that had better be something that I can believe the hero would say. If you have a silent, strong, hero who all of a sudden waxes poetic at just the right moment, I’m not going to believe it unless you have shown me how he's changed or he has a really good reason for acting/speaking out of character.

In the movie “Chasing Liberty”, I love the subplot that involves the two Secret Service agents, Alan Weiss and Cynthia Morales. Through dialogue the writers capture a relationship that develops into a believable romantic one. Following is some dialogue from the beginning of the movie where Weiss is hitting on Morales (again).

Weiss - You get jet lag, Morales?

Morales - No.

Weiss - Really? I get it awful.

Morales - I take herbs.

Weiss - Herbs?

Morales - Yep.

Weiss - Really? Why?

Morales - They help reset your clock.

Weiss - I'd like to reset your clock. I'm just saying.

The main plot of the movie is about the President’s daughter who thinks she has gotten away from her security detail while traveling in Europe. The agents are supposed to be tailing her and an undercover agent. A scene where they are looking for her in Venice brings this conversation. Picking up in the middle of a scene:

Weiss - Let's just say that women stopped beating down my door......about the same time the bangs stopped covering the receding hairline.

Morales - Stop overcompensating. You're a good-Iooking...You look fine. Some girls like a bald head.

Weiss - I'm not bald yet.

Morales - I'm just saying. You should embrace it. Maybe you could cut it really short. Some girls like that. They think it's sexy.

You can see by her responses that her attitude is changing. You can see the subtle change in their relationship. We find out later that he does cut his hair.

A little later on we have this bit of dialogue which occurs after he had been giving her the silent treatment for some earlier comments about his pickup lines. He’s trying to get her to enjoy Venice instead of just doggedly focusing on finding Anna.

Weiss - I'm not leaving this spot till you take a moment to appreciate this. You know, it's not enough just to be a beauty, Morales. You have to be able to appreciate beauty too.

Near the end they finally acknowledge the change in their relationship.

Weiss - Something about a college campus. Isn't there, Morales? You know?

Morales - What do you mean?

Weiss - I mean, you know, the falling leaves...the promise of youth, the smell of curricula. I'm thinking we probably gotta get new partners.

Morales - I'm thinking I'm okay with that.

Weiss - Yeah? That so?

Morales - Yeah.

Weiss - As long as your partner's an old fat guy.

Morales - I love old fat guys.

Now, this might not be your idea of romantic dialogue, but to me it’s a good example of how dialogue can reveal the romance while staying true to the character. Romantic dialogue doesn’t have to be flowery or have certain words or phrases. To me the romance in dialogue is that a character reveals himself to the other in some way. They let themselves become vulnerable by being open and letting their guard down. And that can even happen in an action/adventure/thriller with a little romance on the side. Whatever genre you write, let your characters reveal themselves to each other through dialogue and see if this takes the romance to a whole new level.


Elaine Clampitt is serving as Secretary/Treasurer for the new South Denver ACFW Chapter, Mile High Scribes. With three of her four adult children currently in college out of state, she recently added a new puppy to her "empty nest". She credits her Canadian blood and daughter's high school hockey career with her passion for ice hockey. Elaine is launching a new web site this week dedicated to profiling the inspiring stories of women in the world of ice hockey. Visit for articles with two on-ice Olympic officials and three members of the Team USA Olympic hockey team. In between interviewing these fascinating women, she is working on a series set in the world of professional ice hockey.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The "Great Romance"

I'm not a romance writer. But almost everything I've written has a slight touch of romance in it. I do read romance. I'm not against it. (VBG) The books I like most to read have a light romance thread in them. Which is why I love Jane Austen's books, especially the romance between Elizabeth and Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.

Even in my nonfiction pieces, I've noticed that I touch on what Ted Dekker calls the "Great Romance"—God's love for mankind as seen in Christ's death and resurrection. As Christian writers, I'm not sure how we can avoid romance, whether spiritual, emotional, or physical.

I've long wanted to be a writer, since before I copied out, longhand, my favorite Nancy Drew book when I was in sixth grade. (Can you imagine the relief I felt when I learned that Benjamin Franklin copied word for word his favorite authors as his method of learning to write? LOL Copying that Nancy Drew book wasn't plagiarism after all!) Daydreaming, and the stories I made up then, added to my desire to find true love for all my heroines. The more I read and studied literature, the more I studied Scripture, the more I understood the universal theme of love.

This "Great Romance" is detailed in God's love letter to us, the Bible. In the Old Testament God likens His love for Israel to that of a husband for his wife. And the most beautiful picture of His unconditional love is found in Hosea, where the prophet was a living example of God's love. In the New Testament we read of Christ's coming to earth to save His people from their sin. Not just the Jews, but also the Gentiles. Christ's sacrificial death culminating in His resurrection is the supreme example of a man laying down His life for a friend. So when I think of romance, I can't help but think of the greatest romance of all—that of God's love for us.

And then I see it coming out in the stories I write. Immersing myself in the Word of God has slowly added the dimension of love into every area of my life. Believe me, there's still lots of room for improvement in me as I won't attain that perfection until I'm with Christ in heaven. But that's the goal I strive for—reflecting Christ, reflecting His love as well as His other attributes to believers and unbelievers alike.

Marjorie Vawter is a freelance editor and writer, working out of her home in Westminster, Colorado. A love for God's Word and the riches it contains is a primary theme in her life. And it's the theme of this year's ACFW Colorado retreat April 23–24. (See the Events page on this website.) Margie is married and has two adult children. And one new baby kitty, Sinatra.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Most of us love a good romance. If you don't believe it, check out the sales figures of romance novels, chick flicks and the like. I've always loved a good romance. I've been accused of being a hopeless romantic. I guess I can't argue too much. In high school I filled my boy friend's car with balloons and handmade hearts on Valentine's Day. He called me to report a "Valentine explosion."

I must still love romance. One thing that confirms it is that last Monday AND Tuesday I told myself I needed to write my monthly column for this blog. The problem is I never remembered to do it! See, I've started this new romance novella and . . . well, I got so lost in writing romance, I forgot to write ABOUT romance. While I'm sure nobody was breathlessly waiting for my next Inkwell post, I did feel kind-a bad about letting the blogging world down.

But instead of wallowing in guilt, I thought I'd post a few days late to share a few tricks with you that are working in my latest story. (And can I just say that I haven't had so much fun writing in YEARS?)

I'm sure what I'm about to tell you will not rock your world. You may even say, "I knew that" or "what a cliche." Here's the thing. When writing a romance novel, it really WORKS. Are you ready?

Opposites Attract.

There it is. My story is so much fun to create (and I hope to read) because I purposely set up several areas in which my characters are diametrically opposed. The heroine is passionate, fanciful, loves to celebrate, loves to serve people, and believes in going for your dreams. My hero is logical, no nonsense, afraid to celebrate, a little self-absorbed, and cautious about dreaming.

Can you see how much they need each other?

I can't wait, absolutely can't wait, until they become more and more involved in each other's life and discover how desperately they need what the other has to give.

(PS I loved Margie's blog, above. Beginning to know Jesus as my Bridegroom is taking my relationship with God to new depths. If you're interested in the way Christ has been romancing my heart, check out the posts on the Song of Solomon listed on the side bar of my blog.)

A writer, speaker, and homeschooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is passionate about God’s grace and intimacy with Jesus. Her website, Soul Scents, offers a free weekly devotional, and you can visit her blog at GraceReign. Paula serves as president of HIS Writers, the north Denver ACFW chapter. A devoted Pride and Prejudice fan, she loves good conversation, peppermint ice cream, and walking barefoot. Her greatest desire is to be close enough to Jesus to live His fragrance.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Are You Split on Romance?

This month, in honor of Valentine's Day, the Inkwell authors will talk about romantic elements, whatever that means in their writing. Not all of us are "romance" authors, but I'd wager that most of us write romance to some degree. The percentage of how much space that romance takes on the page determines whether it can fall into that category.

Valid genres include Romantic Suspense, Romantic Comedy, Mystery Romance, etc. These have strong elements of both. I write straight romance for Heartsong Presents. They require 50/50 romance, where both points of view are represented, and we see a clear romance thread between both the hero and heroine.

How do you know whether you've woven the romance thread for both points of view equally? To answer that, let me tell you about a character named Meranda Drake. She's my heroine in the next Oregon book, Crossroads Bay, due out soon. Meranda is a charter boat captain with her sites set on--no, not a man, but a treasure of coins. This character gave me such fits because she's a tomboy, focused on her quest, and clearly not needing a man no matter how cute I made him. Through the first few chapters I kept pleading with her, "Meranda, I know the coins are important, but come on! Paul is standing right there practically drooling for you and you can't see it." It wasn't until she realized one day that she needed to talk to Paul over a disturbing event in her life that she finally started having romantic feelings for him. It was then that she started talking to me like a girl instead of a boat captain.

Crossroads Bay very nearly became a mystery with romantic elements because of my tough as nails heroine. But once we got to the point where she saw in Paul what I saw in him, I could go back and edit in little hints of interest to create that 50/50 requirement.

Flashback to my first Heartsong book, Merely Players, (available in the 3-in-1 Florida Weddings.) I couldn't keep the hero and heroine apart. She was supposed to be mad at him for forgetting about her for ten years, but she kept caving. Then I would have to remind her why she was mad at him by creating conflict. I don't know how many times I wrote a kissing scene and had to delete it.

So, find the balance in your own writing. Do you want to be known as a mystery romance writer? Then pump up the romance to equal the mystery. Do you want to write for Heartsong Presents, Steeple Hill's Love Inspired, or others that requre the 50/50 romance? Be sure that both povs have the strong romantic thread.

For a visual on the 50/50 romance, watch the movie Ever After with Drew Barrymore and Dougray Scott. Both romance threads weave together so beautifully they appear to dance.


Kathleen E. Kovach is an award winning author, leader of the local critique group JOY Writers, and the Rocky Mountain Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Kathleen has three books published with two more contracted. A mom and grandmother, she lives in northeast Colorado with her husband of over three decades. Visit her online:,,
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