What will you write in 2015?

writers-group1Many people tell me they want to write a book. They have great ideas and creativity and are excited about completing their book. The problem is they don’t know how to start, stick with it, or stay motivated. It’s a common problem, but it doesn’t have to be your problem.

Being a part of a community of creative thinkers makes all the difference in my life. When I lived in Texas, I was a part of a writing group that met weekly. I didn’t go to every meeting. I only went about once a month, but those meetings inspired me. They still inspire me. I think of the people I met with and the work they did, our talks and our goals. Their support inspired me to take writing to the next level.

When I wrote my first book, Angel: The True Story of an Undeserved Chance, I had a community of support. Angel herself was of course the number one support. We met weekly for interviews and I knew she was counting on me to send her what I wrote each week. And I did.

When I moved to Georgia one of my main concerns was finding a creative community to be a part of, one which shared my values. I checked out a couple of local groups, but nothing drew me. The Lord led me to start a monthly group, which has proved encouraging and has helped me keep going in my writing pursuits.

If you’re in the local area, please check out the Southeast Georgia Christian Writers Group and join us! If you’re not in the area, find a group local to where you live, or start one. If you start talking about your writing goals and dreams, I promise you will find many others around you who share your desires. When you encourage one another, you WILL reach your goals!

If I can help you reach your writing, editing or publishing goals, please feel free to contact me and visit the Our Written Lives website for information.


“I’m Thankful I Know Prisoners” by Julie Stewart, President & Founder of FAMM

I receive email newsletters from FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums) and this message touched my heart today. I wanted to share FAMM President and Founder, Julie Stewart’s thoughts on Thanksgiving… “I’m Thankful I know Prisoners”

It’s almost Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving and I have a lot to be thankful for: my health, family, and freedom, as well as the sentencing reforms we’ve won this year.

Our federal reforms will reduce prison sentences by two years, on average, (thank you, U.S. Sentencing Commission!), and Florida sentencing reforms will save future drug and gun offenders prison time (thank you Florida legislators!). I’m grateful for the work of everyone who contributed to these victories.

I am also extremely thankful, this year and every year, for what I’ve learned from those who are sitting in prisons across this country.

I don’t know what my attitude would be if I had spent 11 years in prison and still had 7 more to go. Or if I had served 30 years behind bars and knew that I could be there until I died. Or, if I were missing yet another Thanksgiving holiday at home. I imagine I would be bitter and angry. But that’s not what I hear from these men and women who write to FAMM every day.

I hear hope and gratitude in their emails and letters. Here’s what they say:

  • “Thank you for giving me the chance to tell you my story.”
  • “Thank you for [recognizing that] we all change with time, I’m not the same man I was eighteen years ago.”
  • “They have trees here, yes, I said trees!  They did not have trees at [my last prison]…not even a stupid bush. Here there is a nice big yard with a fence, so you can see the countryside… something I haven’t seen in ten years. I am so glad.”
  • “Once I am released from prison, I plan to start a nonprofit organization with my family to help troubled teens by teaching them the right thing to do in life to not end up in prison.”
  • “No conviction can ever take a man’s Purple Heart, or remove my Silver Wings from my chest.”
  • “Thank you FAMM for fighting for the defenseless.”

Words like these from prisoners – people you would think have so little to be thankful for – have taught me that everyone can find forgiveness, redemption, and gratitude no matter their circumstances. And for that, I am very thankful.

My very best,


Julie Stewart
President and Founder
Families Against Mandatory 

Families Against Mandatory Minimums
1100 H Street NW
Suite 1000
Washington DC, 20005

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury

I love what my friend and fellow-writer John F. Harrison had to say about writing and real life… Read more on his post Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury.

“…Real life is intense. So there is no excuse for writing sterile, emotionally flat fiction. This was a gut-wrenching trial for the complainant, her family, the defendant, and the jurors. . Furthermore, there is intense drama around all of us; people experiencing unspeakable joy, or shattering grief, or blinding rage, or crippling fear. We need only take the time to look around and see it. If our fiction doesn’t provoke strong emotion, it’s because our characters and/or their stories aren’t real enough.”

Love: an active noun, like struggle

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” -Fred Rogers

I Love YouWhat does it mean to love? How do you feel love? How do you show love? Do you feel loved? And possibly more importantly, do the people you love feel your love?

I am afraid to ask the people in my life if they feel my love. I am afraid of the answer. What if they said no?

Too often love feels more like a struggle than it feels like love. “To strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now” isn’t always easy.

What does it mean to withhold love? In my mind it is avoiding another person, refusing to speak, putting them down, not spending time with them, ignoring their cries for help. Maybe these behaviors go beyond “unloving” and fall into the realm of emotional abuse.

Love, to me, is emotional support. I may not be able to fix my loved one’s problems, give them finances, a new job, take away their emotional or physical pain… But I can be there with them through the pain. I can give them emotional support. I can empathize. I can show concern. Express condolences. Bring flowers. Spend time with them. I can accept them right where they are, amidst the struggle, and unselfishly acknowledge life with them.

Today, I will take the time to love someone. I hope you will too.

Rachael Hartman

Rachael Hartman, owner of Our Written Lives editing and publishing services for independent authors.

Contentment – We are ENOUGH.

174725660513273199_EOC6NDey_fFor the past few weeks, I’ve been writing a four-part Bible study on contentment.As I dug deeper into the Word of God, I was honestly surprised at the depth of what the Word said about contentment. Contentment is one of those concepts I’ve heard all my life, but struggled to obtain.

One of the most striking points I learned in my study on contentment was the original meaning of the word. One Greek word that translates into “contentment” in the King James Version is “Arkeo.” Arkeo is the word found in Luke 3:14, 1 Timothy 6:8, and Hebrews 13:5.

The original definition is very close to our definition of contentment: “to be satisfied or contented with.” But it also takes the meaning of the word to the new depth of: “to be sufficient, to possess sufficient strength, to be strong, to be enough for a thing.”

imagesI often find myself and other people I meet feel inadequate when it comes to facing difficulties in life. We feel we aren’t good enough, strong enough, smart enough, rich enough, or you-name-it enough.

Finding contentment in who God has made us to be isn’t always an easy task. We think a new look, a new car, a new high, a new friend, a new ‘something’ will fill the void and make us “enough.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

We are strong enough for the task God has called us to. God has given us enough strengths and wisdom in His Word to make the right choices for our lives. We are ENOUGH for the day.


Rachael Hartman

Rachael Hartman is a Christian author and publisher. She has worked as a full-time newspaper reporter, and as a freelance contributor to magazines. She writes high school Sunday school material for Word Aflame Press creating lessons for Project 7 (P7) student-led Bible Clubs, and Link247. She enjoys health and exercise, reading, art, and playing with her two dogs Darla and Danny. She owns Our Written Lives of Hope bookstore & publishing services. Check out her web site at and link to her on Facebook.

An Independence Day Bible Study

Independence Day! Freedom & Liberty in Power of the Holy Ghost!

A Bible Study by Rachael Hartman

Below is the Teacher’s Version of this Bible study. If you would like the student notes page (with fill in the blanks) and the answer page, please email me at and I’d be happy to email you all of the documents.

Today is July 3rd. Tomorrow we celebrate our nation’s independence, but today and everyday you can DECLARE your INDEPENDENCE through the Power of the Holy Ghost!

2 Corinthians 3:12-18… Focus on verse 17

“Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

  1. When you hear the words “Holy Ghost” or “Holy Spirit” what do you think of?

Play Holy Ghost (3 minute official trailer – see link on this blog)


  1. Many people who hear the words “Holy Ghost” or “Holy Spirit” think of the titles “Father, Son and Holy Ghost,” but they don’t really know what that means.

The Holy Ghost, also called the Holy Spirit or Spirit of God, is how we refer to the way God interacts with us in a personal way, as well as how He works in the world today. The first mention of the Holy Ghost was in the Old Testament when God created the world.

Read Genesis 1:2, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

  1. In the Old Testament, once people were living under the law, the Spirit of God remained behind a thick veil in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and the Temple. Later, read Exodus 25, the whole chapter (and surrounding chapters). Read verses 20-22 now.

God interacted with His people through an established set of laws, sacrifices, and special leaders called High Priests. Once a year the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies where God dwelled and put the blood of the sacrifice on the mercy seat as atonement for the sins of the people. The people’s sins weren’t forgiven – they were pushed forward one year.

Read Leviticus 16:14-16, “And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.”

Read Hebrews 9:1-3, 6-9, 11-15, 22 & 10:4, 12-23 

Jesus was the fulfillment of the law. (Matthew 5:17-20 & Galatians 3:24)


4. When Jesus died on the cross the veil in the Temple was torn in two, signifying that all people (not just the High Priest once a year) had access to the Spirit of God. Read Matthew 27:50-51 

Because Jesus died for our sins, we can have a personal relationship with God and be filled with the Holy Ghost!


3. Read Luke 24:34-40, 44-49… When Jesus ascended to Heaven he told his followers to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Promise of Father. They did… the story picks up in the book of Acts.

Read Acts 1:1-9. This is a repeat of what happened in Luke 24.

They obeyed and we read that part of the story in Acts 2:1-4. This is the first time we see the gift of the Holy Ghost – power from on High – being given to the believers. Just as Jesus promised (and as the Old Testament prophecy said), they received Power.


4. The first day the Holy Ghost filled Believers happened to be a holiday for the Jewish people. The holiday was called Pentecost and it was a huge celebration. Jews from all over the world were gathered together in Jerusalem. This was all apart of God’s plan. Because so many different people who spoke different languages were together in one place, the disciples were able to do just as Jesus said and be a witness unto all the nations—beginning at Jerusalem.

We see all the names of the countries and people listed in Acts 2:5-13. They didn’t know what was happening, so they assumed the disciples were drunk! Peter (who had the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven… the key to unlocking the door of heaven… the instructions on how to go to Heaven…) came and explained!


5. Read Acts 2:14-18. Read the verses Peter is referring to in Joel 2:28-29. In Acts 2:19-36 you can read the rest of Peter’s sermon. The people were so moved by how Peter explained who Jesus was and how He poured out His Spirit, they asked what they needed to do.


6. In Acts 2:38-41, Peter tells them exactly what they need to do to be saved. 3000 people were saved that day!


7. As you read through the book of Acts (which is named Acts because it is the actions of the Apostles) and through the rest of the New Testament, which are letters to the church (how to grow in God and continue in the faith), you will see the same pouring out of the Holy Ghost on people throughout the remainder of the Bible.

Just like Peter said in Acts 2:39, the Promise is unto all of us!


8. The day of receiving the Holy Ghost is a day of independence! When you are filled with the power of the Holy Ghost you have the power to overcome sin and to be a witness for Jesus!

Read Acts 19:1-6. Many believers today love the Lord, but they haven’t received this gift of the Holy Ghost yet. Are you ready to receive the Holy Ghost?

Play The Promise is Yours! video (10 minutes – see link on this blog)


9. If you want to receive the Holy Ghost, all you have to do is obey the Word of God and ask for this free gift!


10. Here are some steps that can help you receive the Holy Ghost:

1. Believe in Jesus – Place your trust in Him

2. Repent of your sin – it’s more than saying you are sorry, it’s turning away from sin

3. Forgive others who’ve hurt you – God will forgive your sins when you forgive others (Matthew 6:14)

4. Worship God – Spend time with God, pray and read your Bible. Enter into a time of praise and worship. Play worship music and spend time loving Jesus! Grow close to Him and release control of your life to Him! He will do the rest.


*Note: Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost is a powerful experience. You will feel different physically, emotionally and spiritually as the Power of God fills you. You may cry because the Spirit is so strong. Begin to speak out your praise and love to God. Soon your lips and tongue will start to shake under the power of God. You will know you are filled with the Spirit as you start to speak in a Heavenly language by the power of God, just as the book of Acts believers in Acts 2:4.


A word for women experiencing marital rejection

While working on my new book Plastic Reality: Processing Cosmetic Surgery, I was so moved by a story I read about a woman who was dealing with rejection from her husband. She sought out plastic surgery as a way to be “re-born” after her husband left her for a younger woman. My heart broke for the woman and many others like her. I had to stop to bring a word of encouragement for women experiencing the grief of marital rejection.