My Interview on the Write Now Workshop Podcast

Write Now WorkshopWriters! Readers! Those interested in history and current events!

There’s something for everyone in this podcast where I discuss We Hope for Better Things with the lovely Kitty Bucholtz for her Write Now Workshop.

And if you want to watch the interview, you can do that too, right here on YouTube. I even showered and put on real human clothes for it, so check it out.

During the interview we talk about the challenges of writing a book that takes in so much history and writing black characters while white, as well as how writing and reading books about people who have a different experience of the world than we do can form us into more empathetic and compassionate people.

I had a lot of fun talking to Kitty about these topics (and more) and I hope you’ll enjoy eavesdropping on our conversation!

#Debut19Chat starts today!

After I sold my debut novel and got a 2019 pub date, I joined a group of other writers on Facebook whose debut novels are coming out in 2019. The writers in this group are all writers of adult or new adult fiction. They are men and women of various backgrounds writing in various genres — contemporary, historical, sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, romance, and more. We’ve been holding each other up, comparing notes, reassuring each other, and answering one another’s questions for months as we’ve gone through the process of getting edits, seeing galleys, seeing cover designs, etc. It’s been an awesome resource and a great source of encouragement to all of us.

Starting today, you get to meet them!

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If you love to read and you want to be up on the up-and-comers, head over to Twitter and follow the #DebutAuthors19 and #Debut19Chat hashtags. Starting today and every day throughout the month of August, we’ll be introducing ourselves, talking about our books and our publishing journeys, and giving you an inside look at what’s coming to bookstores in 2019.

Hopefully, you’ll find several great new books to add to your Goodreads shelf and/or pre-order.

I’ve already added my post for day 1. Go see who else is tweeting!


Sometimes your husband is on the cover of a magazine…

And that’s freaking AWESOME.



Zach‘s debut novel, Playing Saint, releases in just six days. Here’s what people are saying about it…

“★★★★½! Bartels’ debut novel is a page-turner from the very beginning. His excellent use of foreshadowing and his glimpses into the past create a story that readers can’t put down. In the vein of Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti, Bartels weaves the supernatural into the natural in ways that are gripping and realistic, adding a shocking surprise that will leave readers stunned.”—RT Book Reviews

“Michigan minister Bartels (42 Months Dry) holds readers’ interest in this intrigue-filled thriller, despite its far-fetched premise. Saint’s character is particularly well developed. This book will be enjoyed by those who love a mystery combined with supernatural elements.”—Library Journal

Playing Saint is everything I love in a novel: great characters, edge-of-the-seat plot, and great twists and turns. I’m ready for his next book already. Highly recommended!”—Colleen Coble, USA Today bestselling author

“A thought-provoking exploration into the power of faith and the reality of evil. Filled with memorable characters and tight writing, Playing Saint is an impressive debut from an author to watch.”—Steven James, bestselling author

“Zachary Bartels is not afraid of head-on collisions with complicated issues. I loved Playing Saint for the recognizable reality, and the humor, and the way I felt when I finished the book—entertained, satisfied, and looking for more.”—Tracy Groot, award-winning author

Playing Saint is a reflection of its author—risky, fast-paced, sarcastic, clever, and ultimately hopeful. We need more novels, and more authors, like this!”—Ted Kluck, award-winning author



I am so proud of him and happy for him! And you should go pre-order it right now. No, seriously. Do it.

I am so, SO very proud…

So ecstatic to announce that my husband’s thriller is available for pre-order!


It’s a fast-paced, suspenseful read that had me guessing the whole time and utterly flummoxed when all was finally revealed. If you love suspense, especially with supernatural elements, this is your book. It will be in stores in October.

Overcoming the Fear of Inadequacy

This is a picture of my son.


It is a self portrait made back in March when he was still four years old, sent home in his personal file when he left his daycare/preschool and started kindergarten. Being four, this is as skilled as his self-portrait could be, even though I know he really sees himself more like this:

Do you ever feel like your talent may not live up to your own expectations?

Does that fear keep you from trying something great?

In almost any creative endeavor, we have an idea of what we want the end result of our efforts to be. The knowledge that our labors–our writing or painting or sculpting or songwriting or drawing in crayon–may never quite live up to the perfect standards we have in our heads can keep us from trying. One can feel paralyzed by potential.

But one must still write. One must still create.

My son may not be a real ninja turtle, but he is taking karate lessons.


If you don’t try, you can’t fail. But if you don’t try, you can’t succeed either.

You’ve got to start somewhere.

Finding Your Story’s Triple Point

Remember in high school chemistry class when you first learned about triple point? No? Let me refresh your memory. The triple point of a substance is the temperature and pressure at which the three phases of matter (solid, liquid, and gas) coexist in a kind of equilibrium. It’s not any of the three and yet it’s all of the three at the same time. Mind blown. In our class we used to annoy the teacher by asking what the triple point of human flesh was.

Here’s a handy chart:


The triple point of your story (and I’m just making this up here, folks–it’s not a real thing so don’t bother googling it) is when all the right elements of your story come together and you reach the point where you can really take off writing. It could be research, outlining, and a sudden burst of inspiration. It could be characters, plotting, and finally landing on the right point of view. It could be just the right combination of procrastination and pressure (looming deadlines!) It might be a hundred different factors finally converging and giving you the perfect kick in the pants you’ve been waiting for.

In the Bartels household the past couple weeks there’s been a lot of flirting with literary triple points and I think I’ve just reached mine.

Ah, the happiness and contentment one can feel with a good start on a big project. I’m two good chapters into a new novel, one that has been brimming with possibilities in my mind for some time but which has had several false starts and one fairly detailed and then discarded outline. I’ve been struggling not with characters, themes, or plot, which are all firmly implanted in my mind and loosely drawn out in a series of notes, but with form. It was the last piece of the puzzle I needed in order to really get started, to reach the triple point.

Any time you are trying to tell a story in the present that has parallels to and lessons to learn from the past, it can be hard to decide the best method for revealing the important parts of the backstory–especially if the backstory spans a long time period. I’m personally dealing mostly with 150 years of a family history. It feels like a lot to wade through to decide what is most important and determine the best method for slowly uncovering that information in the course of the narrative. But my husband (who is also a writer) is working on a new novel where the backstory covers centuries and crosses oceans. But he too is right there, hovering at that triple point.

I’ve had a few aha moments in the past few days, moments that rendered my earlier outlining fairly useless, but moments that may not have happened if I didn’t first try something that didn’t quite work for me. Luckily, I’ve been able to salvage most of the writing, removing chunks to save for later in the book and revising the remainder to lay the right hints and focus on the right thematic elements. I did kill some darlings in the process, but of course that is inevitable.

Now I feel some real inertia and the road ahead looks pretty clear. The trick will be to harness that and make the time needed to use it wisely.


What are you working on right now? What problems are you facing? What happy moments of clarity have you experienced? Have you ever experienced the exhilaration of reaching your story’s triple point?