Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Where in the World is Rick Barry? (November 2022 Update)

All though Rick and I have frequent interaction, I thought it would be nice to give everyone a chance to catch up (virtually) with our friend (and previous ACFW Indiana Chapter President) Rick Barry, since many things have changed for him since he last hung his hat in Indiana.

Hello Rick. It's been a while (January 2021) since we've caught up with you. Thank you for taking the time to chat today.

Thanks for another invitation to an interview. I’m happy to do it!

First of all, can you give us a snapshot of why you originally left Indiana and then how you ended up back?

I left Indiana in February 2016 to be Dad’s live-in caregiver in Michigan. He had reached the point where he couldn’t take care of himself anymore. Then, after nearly 3 years, my stepdad in Alabama suffered a massive stroke. So, I passed Dad to my brother and sister-in-law’s care for what I thought might be 3 or 4 weeks so I could go take care of Mom (dementia) until my stepdad got back on his feet. But he never recovered and passed away. My Alabama sojourn stretched 3 weeks into 3 ½ years. In March, Mom joined the Lord in Heaven, freeing me up to return to Indiana once I’d completed all my duties as executor. 

How has self-publishing been going for you? 

Of my 5 published novels, I self-published the last two, both while serving as a caregiver. Because I’d seen some extremely amateurish self-pub'd books, I didn’t rush. I wanted my finished products to look as sharp as traditionally published books.

Where did you learn how to do this?

In part, I studied guides by other authors who have self-published. There’s much to know, and the learning curve can be steep. Sometimes I posed questions in various online forums, and occasionally I simply Googled specific questions. For the covers, I hired a professional designer, the same designer who created the cover my third book, The Methuselah Project, which Kregel Publications released. I also hired experienced editors to catch mistakes in my blind spots.

What "tools" are involved?

You don’t want to simply publish your Word doc manuscript as a book. In my case, I ended up gravitating toward Vellum software, which allows you to import your story from Word and then to format it as you please, quite intuitively, whether for a print book or an ebook. Vellum will even show exactly how your story will appear page by page, both in print and on various electronic devices, which I found helpful for tweaking the final version. There are other formatting programs available. Each author must study the options, ask others who have used them, and then make a decision.

Looking back since your initial novel was published, what would you say has been the biggest change in the industry?

My first book, Gunner’s Run, released in 2007. At that time, the publisher never asked whether I have a website or whether I’m active on social media. The publisher considered marketing to be their department and didn’t expect me to get involved, except possibly for occasional book signings. But those days are as extinct as dinosaurs. Whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, nowadays you must be willing to participate in marketing your own books.

Tell us about your most recent project.

The Next Fithian: An Ordinary Teen on a Strange New World began as a series of short stories that Focus on the Family asked me to create and develop for teen guys. At the time, I considered those short stories just a one-time writing gig and then moved on. But as time passed, the essence of those stories kept coming back to me. I felt as if the story stuck inside my brain like Velcro, practically insisting I recast those initial short stories into a full-length novel. Eventually, that’s what I did.

What's currently on the writing desk? If a new genre, what makes you want to pursue that outside of your current genre writing history?

Lately I’ve been writing mainly devotionals and some short stories for various editors. And a bit of freelance editing. I’ve done such short work since the beginning of my writing journey, and in all the muddle of 2022—losing Mom, overseeing the funeral and being her executor, moving back to Indiana, resuming my job at the Christian ministry where I worked before, house hunting—I’ve felt pulled in too many directions to concentrate properly on a novel. But now that I’m settling into a new (to me) home, it’s time to resume work on something new to me: a romance novel featuring a biplane pilot. It’s a fun change of pace, and I’m a romantic at heart despite my earlier novels of WW II aviators, etc.

What advice can you give new writers?

As others have stated, read widely. Read excellent books. Without even trying, you will soak up tips and tricks regarding punctuation, description, character develop, pacing, and so much more. In my opinion, even listening to audio books is no replacement for actually reading books, since you need to picture your own story visually on a screen as you create it.

Do you have a "writing support group?"

Not a group that I meet with regularly. However, whenever I need test readers for an early version of a manuscript, I’ve been blessed with enough volunteers to spot areas that need improvement.

How do you balance a secondary writing life with your day job?

It’s a challenge. My day job consists of many hours at a computer screen. I translate Russian documents to English (and sometimes vice versa), I write articles for the ministry newsletters, I create the annual prayer calendar for our ministry, I handle correspondence… At times, the idea of going home, eating supper, and then sitting in front of a computer isn’t at all appealing. You have to love your core story enough to keep going back to the screen and adding more lines to it.

When is your favorite time of day to write?

Mid-morning and right after lunch. However, with a full-time job, I don’t often have that opportunity anymore.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I like coffee shops, particularly Panera. A place where I can commandeer a corner and write while other people and their lives swirl around me. Even though I typically tune them out as I write, it’s still nice to have human beings around. Writing for long stretches in an empty house is akin to writing in solitary confinement, lol.

What inspires you to write?

Other authors’ well-told tales. Seeing how other authors build tension, inject unexpected humor, elicit a tear, tug at your heart, or leave reader with a deeply satisfying conclusion is inspiring!

Well Rick, once again, it's been a pleasure to interview and catch up on your history.

So glad to see you back in Indiana and hope to see you at the Indiana meetings (both zoom and in-person).  Thank you very much. Now that life is getting back to normal, I’m looking forward to attending more events, too!

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Is Today the Day?

“I’ve prayed and prayed, and God doesn’t answer.” How many times have I heard that from frustrated people? I have voiced the same complaint. Faith and hope beckon to me with peaceful smiles on one side of an abyss while on the other side, disappointment sighs and resentment scowls.

Whether it's life in general or high hopes for my writing,

How am I supposed to avoid so much negativity and lean toward faith’s glorious promises in the midst of unanswered prayers?

The Bible instructs us to pray believing. For someone’s salvation, for the basics necessary to life, for healing. And yes, for my ability to write something others will want to read, something worth sharing. Something God considers worthy of sharing with the world. If I am to pray believing, then I am to be expectant each day. This may be the day! And if God does not answer this day with “yes,” then I am to carry on peacefully and joyfully, persisting into tomorrow with the same prayer.


What about the complaint that I opened with? 

If God promises to answer our prayers, if He promises to give us the desires of our hearts, especially if we desire the salvation of someone, why doesn’t He? Is it His fault – does He not keep His promises? I can think of three possible answers, and I’m sure there are several more.

1. One of God’s promises regarding answered prayers comes from Psalm 37:4. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Ah, there’s a condition attached to that promise. Is Jesus my delight? Is joy and peace in Christ a way of life for me? Or do I run to Him with my petitions when I need help but otherwise don’t give Him a whole lot of thought? 

Evaluation Question 1: Do I really delight in God’s presence in my life every day? Am I writing for an audience of One?  If the answer is no, God has no obligation to answer my prayers. He often does anyway, but He doesn’t have to.

2. God also promises to say yes if you pray in the name of Jesus (John 14:13-14). However, that’s not a magic formula. “In the name of Jesus” and “Abracadabra” are not synonyms. “In the name of Jesus” indicates that I know He has all the authority, and I have none. He has all the wealth and power and knowledge in the universe and beyond. I am weak and penniless and ignorant by eternal standards. When I come to Him with my requests, I must acknowledge that my own account is worthless, which means my writing is worthless without His influence upon it.

Evaluation Question 2: Do I realize that I’m asking God to benefit me with funds from His bank, that I have no riches of my own, no writing talent of my own other than what He chooses to give me?

3. Give it time, more than you want to give. So many of our prayers hinge on someone else’s will. Are you praying for a loved one's salvation? That person may not yet be ready to surrender to Christ. God will not override your loved one's choices. Otherwise, humans would be robots. But He does know how to bring someone around to His way of thinking. Let Him work it out. Are you praying an agent will love your book's premise and respond with a request for a full manuscript from your query?  God won't override the agent's reaction either, but with each negative response, He can teach you how to improve the book and/or the query letter until one day the polished work lands in the prayed-for agent's inbox, and a contract is born!

Evaluation Question #3: Am I willing to give God as much time as He needs to put everything in place so my prayer will be answered? Am I willing to persevere? If the answer is “no,” if I’m not willing to keep praying–for decades if that’s what it takes--then how much do I really care?



Don’t think I’m a pointing a finger at you. I’ve had to ask myself the same questions.

I have spent seven years polishing my middle grade series. In that time, I've received encouraging rejections and endured a disappointing stint with an agent. This year at the ACFW conference, all the pieces fell into place, and my prayer has been answered! I've begun the steep learning curve of launching a book. (Anyone who wants to help spread the word, let me know!) What a big, wonderful "YES!" from the Lord!

But other prayers are taking even longer. I've prayed for fifteen years for one person to return to Jesus. So far, the answer is "No." Persuading people to change their minds takes time. It requires offering them a series of choices and letting them learn from the consequences of each decision. It depends on the individual’s stubbornness as to how many choices must be offered before the person “sees the light.” 

Apparently, the person I'm praying for is extremely stubborn, which discourages me. Then I remind myself: God is God, and I am not. I return to my knees, and when I rise to my feet, my peaceful heart is ready to move on with the tasks of the day.

Whether your prayers focus on your writing or your loved ones, you can also surrender them all to God and move through the day filled with peace.

And maybe today is the day when Jesus says, “Yes.”


Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She has completed a  middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister and is currently working on a women’s fiction series.

Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft.

A wife, mother of three, and grandmother to eight, Linda regales the youngest grandchildren with “Nona Stories,” tales of her childhood. Maybe one day those stories will be in picture books!

Where Linda can be found on the web: 





Friday, November 11, 2022

Are you asking the right questions?

 I’ve long been a question asker. The yearning to know the WHY and the HOW of . . . well, basically everything courses through my veins. And for the most part, I’m not afraid to voice my questions. My less inquisitive husband has informed me that I wonder about things that no one else even thinks about. Things that other folks give not one thought to.

Is that so? Well, whatever.

A friend echoed a similar sentiment when she said, “You ask questions I would never even think to ask.” A confession she murmured after realizing she hadn’t gleaned the needed information because she hadn’t asked the right questions.

So there.

I’ve always been into the details, the processes, and the thinking behind those details and processes. I ponder outcomes, too. WHY did it go this way or that? WHAT were the contributing factors? The impactful aspects—both the fabulous and the dreadful. I like evaluations. The dissecting of decisions and events before, during, and especially after. I find there’s a lot to be learned by asking the big questions. WHAT went right? WHAT went wrong? HOW could it have been better? Best accomplished when the answers and supporting data are still top of mind.

As writers, we have to ask questions. The right, relevant questions. The big questions. The hard questions. Questions that sometimes gouge like a red-hot knife. Like the time my critique partner commented on a scene in my YA novel. “It’s cute and it’s well-written,” she began. My thoughts exactly. But then she continued. “But how does it move the story along?”  

Ouch. As much as I loved the scene, I had to concede that she was right. The scene did not propel the story forward. “Save it. Use it as bonus material or something.” Her nudging to set the fav scene aside for possible future use, rather than trash the precious words, helped soothe the sting of seeing my words on the cutting room floor.

I don’t always like the answer, but “Does it/how does it move the story along?” now ranks high on my list of must-ask questions. It leads the way followed closely by other important inquiries, such as—

·       Is the character being true to who he/she really is throughout the entire story?

·       Would she say it like that? Would he really do that? 

·       Is the pacing too slow?

·       Does the storyline rush through the crucial moments?

·       Does the dialogue fit the character’s age? Does the body language? The internal thoughts?

·       And on and on. Asking the right questions and digging deep for the answers will make our fiction better. More realistic, more genuine, more relatable to the reader.

What are your go-to questions? Please share them in the comments.