Meet the Member: Robert Bernecker (Part 1 of 2)

It’s tough to get a good book published – even tougher, it seems, to have one that does well in sales. But one of our FaithWriters member, Robert Bernecker, has done so. His current book, Who’s Your Father, was self-published, and is often the #1 selling book on Amazon in several categories. In this two-part interview, come learn more about Robert, his book, his background, and a bit about what it took for him to get his book on the path to succes.

JOANNE SHER: I was looking at your profile page at FaithWriters and learned a bit about your story. Can you share it a bit with us? It sounds like you were a living witness in the secular world, as well as a servant within the church in many capacities.

ROBERT BERNECKER: As I look back on the incredible journey that God authored specifically for me (Psalm 139:16), I can now clearly see his loving, ever-present hand in bringing me to the exact point at which He has placed me today. I see how He used me along the way but was always building, always developing, and always drawing me towards Himself at all points all along the way.

Without exaggeration, it would take an entire book to recount how my Father has led, worked, delivered, blessed, disciplined, and shaped me along the way. Many things that were painful or made little sense at the time can now be seen as blessings because that particular portion of God’s purpose is now evident. Better still, I have the comfort of knowing that what lies ahead in my path will certainly be for my good and for my further growth (Romans 8:28), no matter how the fog of present difficulties may shroud a clear view of the future. From this perspective, the trite phase “God isn’t finished with me yet” takes on a profoundly deeper meaning.

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“Where’s the Line to See Jesus” Year Two Winners!

For the second year in a row, FaithWriters has run a blogging contest at Christmastime based on the YouTube video “Where’s the Line to See Jesus?” by Becky Kelly. And again, the winning entries are wonderful.  In fact, ALL the entries are wonderful. :) Stop by the forums and check them out!

And now, without further ado, the winners for 2013!

First place ($50 prize or one-year gold membership):  A “Little Grace” in a Big World by Amy Crowe

Second place ($25 prize): Jesus Is For Real by Lynn Gipson

Third Place ($15 prize): The Best Christmas Man by P.J. Baker

Read the winning entries – and all those who entered – here.

Be sure to watch for more contests at FaithWriters in 2014 – including something new. In conjunction with a large Christian publisher, FaithWriters will be awarding three comprehensive publishing contracts in 2014 to upgraded members. These packages will also include promotion of the winners’ book. One of these packages may be awarded for an anthology book like the soon to be released Testimony book and include many members. These will be in addition to all current contests.

Congratulations to our winners, and Happy New Year to ALL!


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Meet 2013 Page Turner Runner Up Jim McWhinnie!

(If you missed it, check out winner Theresa Santy’s interview here, and first runner up Kevin Ingram’s here)

The 2013 Fiction Page Turner winners and runners up were announced earlier this month, and I’ve spent December to get to know each of the three. Check out the link above for our the other two winners- and read on to learn more about runner up Jim McWhinnie, his manuscript The Mystic Realms of Shadow Fox, and more!

Joanne Sher: First of all, congratulations on your honorable mention! Can you tell us a bit about how you found out? What was your reaction?

Jim McWhinnie: I kept peeking back to the Forums to see if just maybe I might be chosen. Finally, I saw the entry about the selections and I was surprised by joy. Although I am an old man who is much in the look of Santa Claus I did a little dance.

jimmcwhinnieJoanne: I wish I could have seen the dance :D When do you first remember developing a passion/love for writing?

Jim: I have always loved words, especially stories. A legacy of my Canadian upbringing is the tradition of story-telling, either before the fire in those long, hard winters, or on the porch during the well-into-the-evening twilight in those northern summer evenings. In college, I often wrote when I should have been studying … but I suppose that is a forgivable. As a campus minister and as a pastor for near forty years, I, of course, was required to do much writing, yet, in the late nights, I would retreat into my writer’s nook and let my thoughts drift off and bring to life words from a more fanciful realm. Now in retirement, or at least, in these years of ministry of a more vagabond style, I love to write … I reckon preachers always have words needing to be voiced.

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Fourth Quarter 2013 Writing Challenge Cash Winners

It’s time to announce the FOUR cash winners from hundreds of entries in this past quarter of FaithWriters Writing Challenge.  The highest scoring entry in EACH LEVEL over each entire ten-week quarter receives a $50 cash prize.

This past quarter focused on animal-related sayings, with topics from the black sheep in the family to straight from the horse’s mouth. The entries across the board were wonderful and inspiring – but there can only be one winner (in each level, anyway!)

And now, without further ado, our level champions for the fourth quarter of 2013 – as well as their thoughts:

Level 1 – Beginners: A Life on Display by Taryn Deets (Like Living in a Goldfish Bowl Challenge)

Taryn’s thoughts: “I am so thankful for this honor!  Tonight, as we walked into a restaurant, one of our sons made the comment, ‘I hate how people stare at us when we walk into a restaurant.’  I used to feel that way too, struggling with being a family on display, not only because of our size but also because of the rainbow of colors we are.  But God has a bigger plan, always taking me just a little further out of my comfort zone, and  I see the fruit of reaching out to another, and am blessed to see how He uses my suffering to help someone else.  This is what He is doing with my writing, with all of us who are called to write for His Glory; He is asking us to share pieces of our heart with the hurting world around us so that hopefully they can open up their hearts to Him. 

“This is such a blessing to me, the first such honor I have ever received for my writing.”

Level 2 – Intermediate: Stumbling Through Elephants by Judith Gayle Smith (Elephant in the Room Challenge)

Level 3 – Advanced: Beautiful Love ~ Ministering to Those in Pain by Rachel Malcolm (from Elephant in the Room Challenge)

Rachel’s thoughts: “When I opened my email and saw that I was one of the quarterly winners of the writing challenge, I cried with joy. This entry is the most personal one that I have written so far. I realized that I can dig deep and use the love that God has shown me, to love others as they walk through their own seasons of darkness.

 ”So many doors have opened up for me since I joined FaithWriters six months ago. I am thankful for this website and even more thankful for the family that I’ve found here.”

Level 4 – Masters: The Horse’s Rear End by Graham Insley (from Straight from the Horse’s Mouth Challenge)

Graham’s thoughts: “No-one ever needs to lose alone and no-one ever wins alone. Jesus, my Lord and Saviour, is the real leader of this team. My wife, Giovanna, is His second in charge. Dave Walker, my writing buddy, is simply awesome and ALL of the FaithWriters who make comments and encourage others are equally as much deserving of this prize as I am.

“I want to encourage every member to enter the challenge; it’s a powerful way to grow as a writer.”

The Writing Challenge is on a break, but  starts up again on January 2 – just over a week away. Give it a try in the new year – YOUR name could be listed here for the first quarter of 2014!

Congratulations, Taryn, Judith, Rachel, and Graham!


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The Key to Writing Good Fiction—Put Your Reader to Sleep

The Key to Writing Good Fiction—Put Your Reader to Sleep

By Edie Melson

Yes, you read the title correctly. Put your reader to sleep.

Okay, maybe not completely to sleep, but at least allow them to dream. What does dreaming have to do with writing? Everything. The dream I’m referring to is the fictional dream. If you’ve never heard the term before, don’t worry. I guarantee you know what I’m talking about. I think author, John Gardner says it best.

“What counts in conventional fiction must be the vividness and continuity of the fictional dream the words set off in the reader’s mind.”

A fictional dream occurs when the world in the story you’re reading becomes more real than the physical world around you. We’ve all be there at one time or another—transported into another time or another place by an author’s well crafted words.

This experience is one that we try to create for our readers. And it’s one of the biggest differences between a good book and a great one. So how do we create this dream world? We do it by paying attention. Notice where you are right now. Are there sounds? Smells? Even if you’re not overwhelmed by your setting I bet you’re aware of it. The same thing is true for our characters. If we’ve written them as three dimensional people then they should notice and be affected by what’s around them. However, if we neglect those details, we deny our readers the chance to be transported.

Even more important than what we do to put our readers to sleep is what we DON’T do. I think writers are far more often guilty of waking a reader up. We, as the author, have an obligation to not jolt our readers out of their fictional dream world.

So what are some things we do that interrupt pleasant dreams?

  • *Bad Grammar—I’m not talking about a missed comma or two. I’m referring to sentence structure that’s difficult to read, modifiers that modify the wrong thing or even complicated punctuation. All of these things can cause a reader to stop and ponder what you’re trying to say. Once they stop you’ve lost them, they’re awake.
  • *Confusing Dialogue—This can include things like long sections of dialogue with no speaker tags or beats. If the reader has to go back and figure out who’s speaking it means you’ve either not put in enough tags or your characters don’t have unique enough voices to be identified. One word of caution, overuse of ‘said’ instead of interspersing with speaker beats can be just as jarring.
  • *Creative Speaker Tags—Anytime you use a speaker tag other than said or maybe asked you run the risk of making your reader stop. The word said is so commonplace in literature that it’s almost invisible. The reader skims lightly over it, uninterrupted. If, on the other hand, you pull out your thesaurus and try to find other words to use in its place you end up with jarring prose that tells the story through speaker tags instead of dialogue.
  • *Characters who don’t act right—I’m not referring to moral actions. We’ve all read stories where a character does something and we find ourselves shaking our heads. Know your characters well enough to keep them from acting out of character.
  • *Overwriting a dialect—I’m not against allowing your character to speak with an accent or in a dialect, but be careful how you do it. When the character is first introduced you can use a heavier hand with the spellings that denote dialect, such as learnin’ instead of learning. But after the reader gets to know the character they can hear the character speaking in their head and you don’t have to use spelling to convey their voice. In fact, if the reader has to work too hard to decipher your intent they will never even make it into the fictional dream.
  • *Head Hopping—This is when you switch POV (point of view) from one character to another without a good reason. The rule of thumb is that each scene should have a single POV character and that should be the character with the most at stake.

The storyteller who can invite the reader into his world and make him believe it’s real has captured the essence of what it means to be a great writer.

Now it’s your turn. What jolts you out of the story world when you’re reading?

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Edie Melson is the author of four books, with two more due out early 2014. Her popular blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands of writers each month, and she’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Her bestselling ebook on social media has just been updated and re-released as Connections: Social Media & Networking Techniques for Writers. She’s the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy and the social media director for Southern Writers Magazine. She’s also the Senior Editor at Novel Rocket. You can connect with Edie through Twitter and Facebook.

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Meet Kevin Ingram – 2013 Page Turner Runner Up

(If you missed it, check out winner Theresa Santy’s interview here)

The 2013 Fiction Page Turner winners and runners up were announced earlier this month, and I’m planning to take December to get to know each of the three. Check out the link above for our winner – and read on to learn more about runner up Kevin Ingram, his manuscript The Grimmest, and more!

Joanne Sher: First of all, congratulations on your honorable mention! Can you tell us a bit about how you found out? What was your reaction?

 Kevin Ingram: I was actually watching the clock closely, anxious to see the results. I kept checking my email around midnight just in case they announced early, which they did, and was surprised and elated to see my entry in the top three. This was my third year entering the Page Turner Contest, and I was hoping to do better than before, so this was a big moment for me! I immediately showed my wife and kids the news, and we celebrated tKIogether.

Joanne: Defiitely a reason to celebrate! When do you first remember developing a passion/love for writing?

Kevin: Oh my, this goes way back. As a nerdy kid I became a daydreamer, mostly to endure the boring hours of grade school, which led to my penchant for storytelling. In high school and as a young adult, I enjoyed creating silly or pointful short stories to share with classmates or co-workers for a laugh. Later, after I became a Christian, I wrote little poems and short stories to help teach Bible lessons or to add to the church bulletin, and I began to consider writing a novel. I formulated the title and storyline for my first manuscript back in about 1983, and started a second one around 1987 or so, but didn’t work on them very much. I actually have not yet finished either of those, although I still intend to.

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Blog Contest Winners – and Another to Enter

It’s time to send a hearty congratulations to the winners of November’s FaithWriters Blog Contest, How God Provides.  With over two dozen entries, the hosting website and ministry,, had a tough time choosing winners, but here they are!

1st PlaceHow God Provides What Santa Cannot, by Penny R. Koontz as told to Harriett Ford (Harriett receives $150.00 in paid writing assignments from and her entry posted on 100 Christian blogs)

2nd PlaceHow God Provides Rest, by Phyllis Stokes (Phyllis has won a $75 paid writing assignment)

3rd place - HOW GOD PROVIDES – A MOTHER’S PRAISE by  Edith Edremoda (Edit wins a free gold membership for one year)

Congratulations! And be sure to stop by and read the winning entries (and those of everyone who entered) on the FaithWriters Forums.

And don’t miss the next blogging contest – a rerun of last Christmas’s extremely popular Where’s The Line to See Jesus? contest.  Write a response to the video/song by Becky Kelley, and you could be a winner – but don’t delay! The deadline for this one is Christmas Eve at 6pm ET. See this post for more details!


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Meet Theresa Santy – 2013 Page Turner Winner

A bit over a week ago, the winners of the 2013 Fiction Page Turner Winners were announced (check out the announcement here). Over the next several weeks, watch the blog to learn a bit more about each of the winners and their manuscripts. The first interview, with Page Turner Champion Theresa Santy, is below. Come learn more about her writing journey, her winning manuscript At The Water’s Edge, and a very interesting hobby she has!

Joanne Sher: First of all, congratulations on your win! Can you tell us a bit about how you found out? What was your reaction?

Theresa Santy: Thank you!

On the night before Page Turner winners were to be announced, I received a call from my FaithWriters challenge buddy Tracy Nunes. It was unusual for her to call December 2013 bnwme. We met in person at the FaithWriters conference in Oregon, but most of our communication has been through email and text. “What’s up?” I asked, not having any idea why she was calling. She asked if I’d looked at the FaithWriters website lately. “No. Why?” I replied, still having no clue. It didn’t dawn on me that it was already past midnight on the east coast and that the results could already be posted. Then Tracy squealed. Oh my gosh. She was kidding, right? I had seen the list of finalists…and I realized what people mean when they say that they are honored just to be nominated. It was an amazing group.

I made Tracy wait on the phone while I logged onto FaithWriters to see for myself. By then, my husband and daughter were hovering over my laptop, too. And there it was—my name flashing across the banner! Then I squealed. The rest of the night was a blur because my head was spinning so fast. But I do recall having a five-minute dance party with my daughter on my bed.

JOANNE: Oh, if only I could have been a fly on the wall! When do you first remember developing a passion/love for writing?

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Some Christmas Reading AND Writing

With December upon us, FaithWriters has some great ways for you to get in the REAL Christmas spirit – the spirit of remembering Christ’s birth. Whether you’re in the mood to write something, or just need a break and want to read some quality writing, FaithWriters is a great place to stop.

For the reader, be sure to check out the December issue of FaithWriters Magazine. With everything from a touching, humorous piece on the true message of Christmas, to lovely poetry, to inspirational pieces and more, there is certainly something for all of us to enjoy. Be sure to check it out – and don’t forget to leave a comment or two for the writers!

Secondly, those of you who have been around for a bit might remember last December’s blog contest, “Where’s the Line to See Jesus?” Well, it’s back again for a second run! Check out the video that inspires it here, and then write a response of 750 words or less according to the instructions here – you could win cash or a free Gold membership to FaithWriters. Even if you entered last year, you can give it another try (just don’t enter the exact same story).  Just don’t delay too long – the deadline is December 24 at 6pm ET!

Have you checked out the FW Magazine? Watched the video?

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Congrats to our 2013 Page Turner Champions!

After almost 12 months of excitement and nail-biting suspense, it is time to announce the winners of the seventh annual Writing and Editing Service/Breath of Fresh Air Press Page Turner Contest.

The 2013 Page Turner Writing Contest began on January 1, with the focus for the year being fiction. Entrance to the competition was open to all members of the FaithWriters Platinum 500, and 47 submissions were received before entries closed on October 31.

Entries comprised a synopsis, outlining the planned book overall, together with the first chapter of the manuscript. Judging was based on how well each entry worked in a number of key areas, including creativity, freshness, craftsmanship and, most importantly, page turning power and potential for publication.

This year, the standard of entries was exceptional, with a large number of the submissions showing some degree of publishing potential. It was also very exciting to see that many of the entries were not your standard “cookie-cutter” Christian fiction. It is encouraging to see Christian writers daring to step a little outside the box and try new, imaginative ways to reach readers.

So, it is with great pleasure we announce our 2013 Fiction Page Turner winners:

2013 PAGE TURNER CHAMPION: At the Water’s Edge by Theresa Santy

2013 PAGE TURNER RUNNERS UP: The Grimmest by Kevin Ingram

The Mystic Realms of Shadow Fox by Jim McWhinnie

(Watch for interviews with the winner and runners up here on the blog in coming weeks)

The 1st place winner of the 2013 Page Turner Contest receives:

  • A cash prize of $800;

  • Free editing of their manuscript (up to 300 pages);

  • Free publicity and marketing of their book on all FaithWriters’ sites for twelve months following publication;

  • A special Page Turner Champion award plaque;

  • Consideration for publication of winning manuscript by new Christian publisher, Breath of Fresh Air Press (publisher of the new line of Mixed Blessings books); and
  • Free conference registration for either the 2014 US FaithWriters Conference (terms and conditions apply).

The two Page Turner runners up each receive:

  • A special Page Turner award plaque;

  • The offer of half price editing for their winning manuscripts; and
  • Free conference registration for the 2014 US FaithWriters’ Conference (terms and conditions apply).

The 2014 Non-Fiction Page Turner Contest will open on January 1.

Congratulations, Theresa, Kevin, and Jim!

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