Sagging Middles

Once upon a time...Fairy tales often begin with once upon a time, but the tale doesn’t stop there. It can’t. A story ends well if we find the answer to one question…

And then what happened?

Without that question, we have no plot. And there must be a plot. The plot drives the story forward. Right?

But here’s where our story differs from the fiction we read and write. Our stories have sagging middles. And I don’t mean I-quit-doing-my-sit-ups sagging middles. The sagging I refer to is the endless waiting, circuitous wandering middle.

It’s during these middles we, as doers, feel helpless because the forward movement has stopped. There is no action. Or is there?

We fail to comprehend this new plot twist because we’re not the author of our stories. The Master storyteller holds the pen, and He knows the exact pace needed to accomplish the character arc He desires.

Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. James 1:3-4 KJV

Truth: Sometimes we need a sagging middle to move us forward.

The Lord alone knows how to structure our story to bring us to a delightful ending.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13 KJV

He has made the needed provisions for our salvation, and He’s making the necessary revision in our lives. Hence, the sagging middle. Hang in there. We can and will finish strong if we yield to His hand.

Another fact to rejoice over is our Lord never suffers from writer’s block! He has known the end of our stories from the beginning.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

As writers we understand, only the Author who knows the ending can finish the story. And He alone will finish the story. May we all allow Him to write His story upon our hearts.

Who’s writing your story?

Click to Tweet: Sometimes we need a sagging middle to move us forward.


Women of Faith and Fiction ~ Sandra Ardoin

Good morning, dear reader. Welcome to Women of Faith and Fiction Tuesday. This morning we’re talking with author Sandra Ardoin. I am thankful to call her friend. She’s as beautiful on the inside as her lovely books. If you haven’t read her books, you’re missing out on a treat. And who wants to miss out on a treat? Not me! So let’s not waste another minute…


Good morning, Sandra, tell us a little about yourself.

Sandra Ardoin_Headshot

I’m a married mother, now an empty-nester. I was born a Hoosier, then became a Texan before finding my way to the Tar Heel state of North Carolina. When I’m not watching NASCAR and entertaining my family with enthusiastic cheering during NFL games (Keep Pounding, Panthers!), I spend my spare time reading fiction, listening to country music, and digging rocks out of my garden.


Sandra, you are a busy woman! I love working in my garden. It’s therapeutic. Now, let’s talk about you as a writer. Where did you get the idea for your latest WIP or your current release? And what inspired you to choose the setting of your story?


I set A Love Most Worthy in Nome, Alaska during the gold rush of 1900 and submitted the idea to meet a publisher’s request for a mail-order bride novella. In the story, Hallie searches for something that, for her, has been more elusive than gold—a loving family. What she finds are the gale-force winds of distrust and insecurity that threaten to destroy her dream of becoming a cherished wife and mother.

The choice of the setting came because I wanted something different from the typical “western” mail-order bride story. I researched the Klondike Gold Rush, but there were issues I felt were better met by the Nome location.

Although the novella idea wasn’t chosen by the publisher, I finished the story and am preparing to take my first dive into the indie publishing waters with it. The timeframe of the release is tentatively set for February 2019. Stay tuned. 😉

My current, unfinished story is historical romance and set it in a small, fictional North Texas town because that area was my stomping grounds for twenty-three years. And the Lone Star state makes a great location for a story set in the 1880s, don’t you think?

Congratulations on the indie adventure! I can’t wait to read them both. Tell me, what is your favorite thing to do when not writing?

Reading, of course. 😊 As stated in answering the first question, I like to garden. Unfortunately, I don’t have as much time for it as I used to, which is evident in the condition of my garden areas. But I love plants and get excited when spring rolls around and perennials start popping out of the ground and plants flower.

I get spring fever too. Can’t stay away from the plants. 🙂 Please share a writing quirk—a ‘must have’ or a ‘must do’ to get words down on paper.

Well, the “must have” is coffee. My writing runs on coffee. As far as a true writing quirk, I need silence and privacy. I’m too insecure to let someone peer over my shoulder at what I’ve written, and I’m not one to play music in the background. I’d find myself paying more attention to the music (probably singing along) than writing. I need a closed office and quiet.

I understand that! Last question. This year’s theme is First Things First. Setting our priorities is a must if we’re to be about our Father’s business. What advice would you offer someone struggling to spend time with Him? And, how has spending time with Him changed your life?


For me, it’s in your “First Things First,” Gail. I need routine and organization in anything, or I flounder, so I make it a priority to spend time in my Bible and with a devotion first thing in the morning. If I allow myself to get tied up in other things, I put it off. So, to answer your first question, I think setting a routine is a must if you’re struggling to find the time. Also, praying “continuously” is scriptural. It’s wise to talk to God off and on during the day. Think about how relationships widen when you don’t talk to a friend in a while. Which leads to the second question…

There was a time when I moved away from God. During those years, my life was not the way either of us wanted it, but He didn’t give up on me. Life is much better, much easier, when we remain close to Him—under the shadow of those protective wings—than to move away.

You are so right, Sandy. Love those thoughts. Thank you so much for joining us, encouraging us, and sharing with us.

Click to Tweet: “Well, the “must have” is coffee. My writing runs on coffee.” ~ @SandraArdoin with @GailJohnson87 #WomenofFaithandFiction #author


Sandra Ardoin engages readers with page-turning stories of love and faith. She’s the author of the heartwarming novella, The Yuletide Angel and the award-winning novel, A Reluctant Melody. Rarely out of reach of a book, she’s also an armchair sports enthusiast, country music listener, and seldom says no to eating out.

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Women of Faith and Fiction ~ Dee Dee Chumley

Good morning, dear reader. Welcome to another edition of Women of Faith and Fiction with Dee Dee Chumley. Former high school English teacher and tennis coach, Dee Dee is the author of Some Form of Grace. Leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway!


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Good morning, Dee Dee. Tell us a little about yourself.

Originally a Texas girl, my husband and I moved to Oklahoma in 1978, so I feel I now qualify as a “jen-u-wine” Okie, a status I’m proud of. I taught high school English for twenty-three years and coached girls tennis for eleven of those. I spend a lot of my time these days traveling back and forth across the country to visit family. My mother lives with my sister and her husband on the Oregon coast, and my daughter and her family live in Nashville. Why they couldn’t have found more centralized locations, I don’t know, but at least they live in places that are fun to visit. And visiting Nashville is even more fun now that I have two adorable grandsons there!



Where did you get the idea for your latest WIP or your current release? And what inspired you to choose the setting of your story?

Through my church, I volunteer with a prisoner re-entry ministry, which is part of the Criminal Justice and Mercies Ministry of the United Methodist Church. Among other ways, this ministry helps recently released prisoners assimilate back into society by offering a rent-free apartment until they can gain financial stability. The apartment complex in Oklahoma City is called Exodus House, and a few years ago, our church agreed to update, maintain, and furnish two apartments there. When I retired, I became involved in this program and started learning some amazing and inspiring stories from the people whose lives have been transformed through their faith and their stay at Exodus House. These stories provided the seed for a book, but not until my minister began a series of sermons on the concept of grace did the idea for the plot, theme, and title fully develop. As to the setting, I used the actual location, although I changed the name of the complex to Transformation Place and changed other names and altered stories in order to protect people’s privacy.

Thank you for sharing that, Dee Dee. It sounds like an amazing ministry. Tell me, what is your favorite thing to do when not writing.

When I’m not writing or traveling, I stay busy reading, exercising, and volunteering at church. A friend of mine recently described retirement as “funemployment,” and I totally agree!

I like that definition. Okay, here’s a fun idea. Share a writing quirk—a ‘must have’ or a ‘must do’ to get words down on paper.

My writing group, the Inklings, provide 90% of the motivation and discipline for my writing. We gather once a month, and I always try very hard to have something, even it’s just the beginning of a poem or a blog post. Often, those little pieces go on to be something bigger like a contest entry, a magazine submission … or a novel! I’ve heard pros and cons on being a part of a writing group, but I can say positively that without the amazing Inklings, I would’ve never pursued writing as long or passionately as I have.

I agree with you. I don’t know what I’d do without my critique group. They are an amazing group!



This year’s theme is First Things First. Setting our priorities is a must if we’re to be about our Father’s business. What advice would you offer someone struggling to spend time with Him? And, how has spending time with Him changed your life?

This is an excellent theme, and it’s something I need to be reminded of. In Some Form of Grace, the protagonist Gracene longs for the peace that can come from a relationship with God but feels she will never be worthy because of a dark secret in her past. A friend advises her to “… start with baby steps. Take a few minutes each day to read some scripture or maybe a devotional.” I think this is also good advice for Christians who struggle to prioritize their time with God. I’ve found two ways to help me with this. One is that as soon as I open my eyes, I express thanks—for a good night’s sleep, for a warm bed, for another day of life …. The other is that I subscribe to an online devotional site. Most days, it’s one of the first emails I receive on my phone, and I read it either before I get out of bed or shortly thereafter. It always includes a Bible passage, an insight from the author, and a prayer. So many times I’ve been amazed that the devotional for the day was the exact thing I needed to hear! After spending time—sometimes just a brief time—with God, I never fail to experience peace and assurance.

I think that’s perfect advice, Dee Dee. Thank you for joining us today on Women of Faith and Fiction!

Click to Tweet: I’ve found two ways to help me with this. One is that as soon as I open my eyes… Women of Faith and Fiction with Dee Dee Chumley @GailJohnson87 #interview

Some Form of Grace

full book coverAngry loner Gracene has just stepped out of the prison gates and already she’s pulling another con job: She’s moving to Transformation Place. The apartment complex offers free rent and a re-entry program for ex-offenders. But there’s a catch. The apartments and the program are for Christians, something Gracene knows she can never be. A dark secret has convinced her she is beyond forgiveness.

Faking her faith works for a while. She finds a good job with an understanding boss, and for the first time in her twenty-eight years, she has true friends. Even romance seems a possibility. At long last her life is headed in the right direction. But when a creeper from the past slithers back into her life, can Gracene’s pretend faith save her from a U-turn?

headshot 3Dee Dee Chumley has received numerous awards for her short stories, essays, and poems, and in 2012 her debut novel Beyond the Farthest Star won Best Juvenile Book from the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc. When she’s not writing, she’s traveling across the US with her husband Bill to visit friends and family, volunteering at her church, or relaxing on her front porch in Oklahoma. She is a member of OWFI and ACFW. Please connect with her at, on Facebook at, or on Twitter @dee_chumley.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay