Wednesday, January 28, 2015

FLYING THROUGH THE FOG: Tips to Discovering Your Story Idea

Are you ready for SPEEDBO?“
YIKES!” you’re thinking. “Give me a break. It’s only January!”
As long-time Seeker Villagers know, SPEEDBO is short for “speed book.” Each March Seekerville hosts a month-long write-a-thon where we write our little hearts out for 31 days. We draw encouragement from each other and push ourselves to one more word, one more sentence, one more paragraph, one more chapter. Maybe an entire rough draft!
And...Speedbo is ONLY 32 days away!
Are YOU ready? Have you given any thought to where your focus will be or do you plan to sit down on Sunday, March 1, grab any idea that comes to you out of the blue, and write through the fog?
Due to exceedingly limited time available to write to a contracted deadline, I can’t be an into-the-fog writer. Between turning in one finished book and a proposal for the next, I try to allow myself about eight weeks to complete a beginning-to-end synopsis (12-15 double-spaced pages) and the first three chapters for my editor’s approval (an additional 50 pages).
As I begin that proposal package, I can’t afford to take off totally into the fog without a plan -- “instrument back up.” I can’t leisurely fly this direction, then that, hoping for clear skies out there somewhere before I run out of time and “fuel.”
Did you know that when flying through thick fog, a pilot without (or disregarding) a working instrument panel can become so disoriented that they believe they’re parallel to the earth but are, in fact, flying their plane straight into the ground?
In order to avoid that and get moving on my proposal, I have to quickly lay a foundation. I can’t just launch into writing a proposal for something I’ve given absolutely no thought to. Not, at least, if I hope to make it through the fog and in for a happy landing!
Unlike some writers who are gifted at pulling an idea out of a hat (with all the full-blown GMC trimmings), I MIGHT have a “spark” for the next book -- maybe a “what if,” a situation or a character who lodges in my brain. Or not.
I’m sometimes at ground zero in the idea department. Flying into the fog with the clock ticking...ticking...ticking.
So where do I start? How do I find an idea I can build on to discover a book-length story that engages me, my editor and my readers?
For years I’ve kept a checklist that serves as a runway, a launching pad to help me get my story off the ground and through the murky realms to clearer sailing.
So today I’m sharing the checklist I use (mingled with a HUGE helping of prayer!) to get my brain rolling. Please note that I don’t follow it in chronological order if one point or another captures my imagination first.
So see if any of these ideas help fly YOUR Speedbo project out of the fog!
- Peruse papers, magazines and on-line or TV news for stories that spark a “what if” (or review ideas previously gathered--I keep a running list).
- Find photos of who you imagine your hero/heroine to be. (I’m constantly “snipping” face photos from the web or magazines and putting them in a folder or electronic file for future reference.) Sometimes a face will jump out at you, almost as if you recognize your character! And their personality and background suddenly kindles in your mind.
- Come up with one- or two-word descriptors of the hero/heroine (their core essence).
- Brainstorm themes and “hooks” this story might embrace (e.g., opposites attract, girl-next-door, friends-to-lovers).
- Brainstorm one-line concepts of what the story is about. Getting something down on paper solidifies your fledgling ideas.
- Expand the one line to a one-paragraph “blurb.”
- Brainstorm a moral premise to see if one might give your story direction. Is there a Bible verse or saying that concisely nails what this story could be about?
- Brainstorm titles.
- Brainstorm opening lines.
- Brainstorm opening scenes.
- Brainstorm goals, motivations, conflicts (GMC).
- Brainstorm hero/heroine backstory.
- Brainstorm who the heroine/heroine is at the beginning and how they will change by the end of the story.
- Brainstorm scenes that will SHOW this change.
- Brainstorm what the hero/heroine is most afraid of.
- Brainstorm a lie the hero/heroine believes about themselves -- and each other.
- Brainstorm what most deeply hurt the hero/heroine in their past.
- Brainstorm possible big black moments based on the above ideas.
- Brainstorm story climaxes and resolutions.
- Scene storm how to ILLUSTRATE and build escalating conflict to reach this climax/resolution.
- Create a rough draft “calendar of events” as plot points come to you. Yes, ON a calendar so you get  feel for the story's timeline.
- Research locale, occupation, story “issues,” etc. (But don’t get bogged down in this so that you never start the story!)
- Sketch a map of the setting or a key building to firm it in your imagination.
- Locate photos that illustrate locales or scenes.
- Build a photo collage to capture the essence of your story as it comes to you. (I’ve never tried this, but was intrigued when I heard several years ago of authors doing it--have any of you tried it?)
The results of any one of these brainstorming endeavors -- or a combination of several -- can grab my imagination and send it hurtling through the fog. That sparking idea then draws -- magnet-like -- other ideas I can use to build my proposal as I continue through the various brainstorming points.
I find, too, that setting a timer to brainstorm helps immensely. Rather than “dreamily” letting my mind wander (although that can occasionally help IF I can find the time), a timer helps me focus. How many ideas for a given point can I come up with in, say, ten or fifteen minutes?
It’s also helpful when the essence of my story finally begins to emerge (but I still feel like I’m in foggy regions), if I begin writing the opening scene. Get a feeling for the conflict and characters. Because I always start my synopsis with a few pages of hero/heroine background before launching into “as the story opens,” developing that background in the fledgling synopsis while at the same time working on the opening scene often begins to clear the fog me.
So how do YOU kindle that idea spark? Share with us today where your ideas come from and the steps you take to build it into a full-length story concept that flies you out of the fog and into blue writing skies!
If you plan to give Speedbo a shot and would like to be entered in a drawing for one of two copies of Jeff Gerke’s “Write Your Novel In a Month: How to Complete a First Draft in 30 Days and What To Do Next,” mention it in the comments section, then check the Weekend Edition to see if you’re a winner!
Glynna Kaye’s debut book “Dreaming of Home” was a finalist in the ACFW Carol and Maggie awards, as well as a first place winner of the “Booksellers Best” and “Beacon” awards. Her 4 1/2 star “At Home In His Heart” was chosen as a Reviewers Choice finalist by national magazine RT Book Reviews. The first book in her Love Inspired “Hearts of Hunter Ridge” series debuts in October 2015!


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Autographed Bookplates: Are We Famous Yet?

Pam Hillman Bookplate
(Actual plate wouldn't have a border)
by Pam Hillman

A few weeks ago the authors of The Homestead Brides Collection mailed bookplates round-robin style so that we could all sign them. The set is still making the rounds among the nine authors, but when we’re done, we’ll all have bookplates signed by all of us to either mail to someone or put in books at book signings.

I thought that was kind of cool, and I realized this is a topic that we hadn’t discussed in Seekerville. So here goes... :)

In its most basic form, autographed bookplates are labels signed by an author and mailed to readers when the reader owns a copy of the book, but distance prevents the author from signing the book for the reader face-to-face.

The Homestead Brides
bookplates making the rounds
to all nine authors.

Pros of Bookplates

Obviously, the nine authors in The Homestead Brides Collection are not all likely to ever be at a book signing together as a group. So, if you are part of a collection, having some bookplates signed by all the authors is a neat way to offer added value to your readers.

It's also a good idea to have your own personal bookplates on hand at book signings. When I asked the Seekers for examples or tips, Mary Connealy remembered being at a book signing with a man who ran out of books but offered signed bookplates to send home with his fans who didn’t get a copy of the book that day. Also, if someone forgets their book(s) at home, then a bookplate is the next best thing if they won't have the opportunity to see you again.

Julie Lessman's Daughters of Boston bookplate designed
for use with the four books in the series. Stunning!

Cons of Bookplates

I read one article where a reader spotted “signed by author” stickers in her local bookstore. Excited, she purchased the books and only discovered after she’d gotten home that the books weren’t actually signed but had bookplates in them. She was disappointed, and I can certainly understand why.

I’ll admit that I’m not one to write in books. I shudder when someone turns down the corner of a page. I go into convulsions when I see a book that’s been dropped in someone’s bath water (the ewww factor is only part of my revulsion).  So maybe I’m not the best advocate of signed bookplates. But I do like tastefully done bookplates (like Julie’s) and would very carefully adhere those to a beloved author’s book.

Julie Lessman's Personalized Bookplate
The Heart of San Francisco Series

I would caution to not ever adhere a signed bookplate to a book unless you are the owner of the book. That bookstore would have been much better served to offer the bookplates in conjunction with the books, but not actually stuck to the pages.

Along that line, VJ Books, a purveyor of signed bookplates, recommends, “A bookplate laid-in (simply placed, not using adhesive), enhancing the value of a collectible book, when a direct signature is either impractical or impossible. We do not recommend attaching these directly to a book. By gently laying them in the book you do not risk damage to a book, and should an opportunity arise where the book actually gets signed, the bookplate can be easily transferred to another title by the same author.”

Interestingly, the most expensive bookplate on VJ Books' site was one by Elmore Leonard (Justified) for $35.99. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a photo available of this prized bookplate.

Bookplate design by Pam Hillman
Suitable for Contemporary Romance or Women's Fiction

Types of bookplates

~ Bookplates can be very simple with just a small, elegant design in black and white, or very elaborate and in color.
~ They can be generic, or book/series specific like Julie's gorgeous examples.
~ Themed bookplates that match the author's style or genre could be fun and sometimes quirky.
~ Bookplates tend to be 3”x4” or 4” x 4”, but can be any size.
~ They can be on any color label with a border or with a faded edges so that it’s less noticeable where the bookplate ends and the book begins.
~ Even better, order or print bookplates on clear labels, and then the actual book page shows through.

Bookplate Design by Pam Hillman
Ideal for a Suspense Author :)

Should You or Shouldn’t You

I suppose having a large selection of bookplates isn’t really a big thing, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have some on hand if you plan to have a book signing. In addition, I've had people across the country ask how they can get a signed copy of one of my books, so a bookplate would be one option in that circumstance. Karen Kingsbury has a good example of how to offer signed books and/or bookplates to her fans.

So, what do you think? Do you like the idea of a bookplate? Would you stick one in a book, or simply put it between the pages? Or are they just not your cup of tea at all?

Bookplate Design by Pam Hillman
Simple, elegant, timeless design

The Homestead Brides: Promises of free land lured thousands to stake their claim to the vast American plains. They built make-do homes and put all they had into improving the land. Readers will enjoy nine adventures as God helps homesteaders find someone with whom to share the dream—the work—and the love.

To celebrate the release of The Homestead Brides Collection on February 1st, we’re giving away another copy TODAY! Let me know in the comments if you'd like to be in the drawing.

Also, since we’re talking bookplates, if you’d like a signed bookplate, go to and send me a message along with your mailing address. Specify if you want one for The Homestead Brides Collection (signed by all the authors), or one for signed by me only. If you want it personalized, please specify that as well.

Monday, January 26, 2015


Good Morning.  Sandra here with a pot of chocolate velvet coffee, Teavana teas and hot chocolate. Grab a cup and lets talk miracles.  I picked oranges and tangelos off my tree this morning and they are juicy and sweet. So please help yourself to some Arizona sunshine.

Photo A

Have you ever pursued a project or a dream and all of a sudden the people you need appear or the information you need falls into your lap? Some would call this coincidence. There are even scientific studies where they have proven that your brain tunes into things when you have a goal.  Their example showed how you decide you want a certain type of car and suddenly you are seeing that car everywhere, ads for that car, information for that car. I'm sure these rationalizations can be proven, but personally, I believe they are miracles. I believe they are divine intervention and support for my work in progress.

Photo B

Let me give you some examples.  When I finished my first draft of DREAM SONG, one of my earlier novels for Warner, I got called to give some seminars on the Navajo Reservation. The setting for DREAM SONG is Northern Arizona. Debra, the heroine, is searching for her roots. Debra was adopted by Anglo parents but her mother was Navajo. Several ladies I met at the seminar gave me some valuable assistance in developing the characters in DREAM SONG. They even offered to be beta readers which was great, as they found things that would have been inconsistent with Navajo culture. Now I had never worked on the reservation before nor since. Was that coincidence? Did I go looking for that job? No. I was asked by ASU to go because of work I had done as a teacher. But did I need that information? And was it provided in a beautiful way?  You bet.

Photo C

By the way, I'm working on getting DREAM SONG back out there. Hopefully it will be on Amazon some time this spring.

Another example: Have any of you read LOVE'S MIRACLES?  I was spending the summer at Lake Tahoe when I was writing that novel. The hero in LOVE'S MIRACLES is a Vietnam Vet dealing with post traumatic stress syndrome.  I joined the closest RWA group which was in Reno, Nevada and met a woman looking for a critique partner. Guess what her day job was? She was a psychologist at the Reno VA hospital. Now was that coincidence? Did I go looking specifically for a psychologist? No. And was I there all summer to work with her?  Remember that was written in the 80's way before the Internet and online crit partners. So what a miracle that we were able to work together because she provided me with amazing information.

Photo D

CURRENT OF LOVE was written because hubby and I went on a cruise up the Mississippi on a riverboat cruise. And being a writer I interviewed the crew and the story brewed in my mind. It was a year later that I started writing this novel so I did not have contact with the crew members. The hero nearly drowned as a child so is not really happy on the water. This is why he is going with his father on a river boat cruise instead of a sea cruise. So of course, we had to have a huge storm, flooding and boat evacuation. I needed to know what they did in that situation. We were camping in our RV and guess who is camped near us? Yep. A retired river boat captain. Now is that coincidence? Did I go to an RV park to find one? Nope. But guess who provided one for me?  Yep. Our Father.

Photo E  (black and white)

My hero in my current work in progress is a retired Army Colonel.  One of the gals I play pickleball with is married to a retired Army Colonel. I have already been interviewing him and getting some great information that will ramp up my plot. Now is that coincidence? Did I go to an RV park looking for a retired colonel? And do I need to know one?  You bet.

Photo F  (sepia)

Not only do these miracles happen in my writing, but in all things related to writing. Many of you know that I signed books in November at the Scottsdale Library. Well book selling was a wash. Who goes to a library to buy books?  LOL   But God makes good out of all things. I met a publicist and since Amber was hired by a publishing house, I needed one. Nanci advised me that I need to update my photos. Well I am presently RVing in a resort on the outskirts of Tucson and its pretty isolated out there. But guess what? The RV resort features a photography club and I met Linda Needham. She took these photos and wow did we have fun. Not only did I get photos, but met a new friend. Oh yes, one of my pickleball friends is an actress and she had fun putting on the makeup and fixing my hair. (something about which I am completely hopeless)

So this brings me to the PHOTOS. Have you been thinking that I'm getting vain? Or losing it?

Photo G

These are some of the headshots. What I need is help with picking out the best ones for my profile shots. I like the black and white. (shows less wrinkles) There is the sepia.  And color shots.  Also we tried some without the glasses which looks better, but hey, I do wear glasses so what is your opinion? Should I have them on or does it really matter?

I have numbered each photo. Please pick your favorite and you will be entered into a drawing for a signed copy of one of my books or your choice of an available Seeker ebook.

Also, PLEASE SHARE any miracles you've witnessed along your writing path. I love miracles. I believe in miracles. And I love hearing about them.

If you don't have any to share,  start looking for them. Seeing the big and small miracles that happen every day are what build your faith.  And they bring you joy because they are reassurances that the Lord is with you.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Weekend Edition

As all of you know, the 20th of January was Penguin Awareness Day. This weekend we'd like to salute the penguin. Be sure to hug one today, and don't be afraid to add a penguin to your novel!

We have a jam packed Weekend Edition. Read slowly so you don't miss any giveaways!

We Have Winners

Giveaway rules can be found here. Please drop us a line to claim your giveaway at All prizes not claimed in 8 weeks go back into the prize vault. We wish we could contact all our winners individually, but we'd rather write books!

Did you claim your giveaway from LAST WEEK?
Winners of Homestead Bride are Keli Gwyn, Wendy Newcomb and Dawn Leonard.

Winner of Mending the Doctor's Heart are Wilhani Wahl and Becky Dempsey.

 When is my manuscript done? On Monday, Seekerville welcomed back Ruth Kaufman who shared tips when she blogged with us on Monday. Becky Dempsey is the winner of an e copy of the inspirational version of At His Command.

Tuesday we were delighted to welcome Love Inspired Historical author and Indie author, Naomi Rawlings back to Seekerville with her post, "Using Real Life Trials to Grow our Writing." Chill N is the winner of her latest release, Falling for the Enemy.

Wednesday, award-winning author, Debby Giusti, talked about finding writing success, even without publication, in her post entitled, "For Writers: When Less is More." The winner of an advanced copy of Debby's March Love Inspired Suspense, STRANDED, is KAV. Debby also gave away five print copies of The Writer's Prayer. Those lucky winners are: Melanie Dickerson, Meghan Carver, Pat Jeanne Davis, Deanna Stevens and kaisquared. 

Seeker Tina Radcliffe sat next to an amazing woman on the flight back from the ACFW conference-Elizabeth Van Tassel. Friday she was our guest blogger with her post,"The Power Of The Right Turn." Winner of a twenty minute coaching session is DebH. Winner of a Bath and Body Works gift card is Gabrielle Meyer.

Next Week In Seekerville

Monday: Seeker Sandra  Leesmith blogs today, and she will talk about the miracles that happen when she is writing. Are they coincidence or God's perfect timing? What miracles have you noticed? Those who comment will be eligible for a a signed copy of one of her books or an available e-copy of a Seeker book of their choice.

Tuesday: Pam Hillman is your hostess on Tuesday, discussing the pros and cons of author book plates with advice on when and when not to use them. She'll be giving away a signed copy of Homestead Brides and bookplates on request!

Wednesday: Love Inspired author Seeker Glynna Kaye shares her thoughts on “Flying Through the Fog” – tips to finding your next story idea and getting it off the ground.  In anticipation of Seekerville’s March “Speedbo” challenge, Glynna will be giving away a copy of Jeff Gerke’s  Write Your Novel In a Month: How to Complete a First Draft in 30 Days and What To do Next.

Thursday: Today we bring you The Best of the Archives and two super special giveaways so you can buy whatever wasn't under your Christmas tree.

Friday: Time for the February Contest Update. Stop by to meet our February Diva or Divo and we've also got some chocolate giveaways! 

Seeker Sightings

Love Our Readers Lunch
Kennesaw, GA
February 14, 2015 at 10:00AM to 1:00PM
Click here to purchase tickets.

Register by midnight January 25, 2015 and you'll automatically be entered to win a Kindle Fire!! *You must be present to win.*

Join us for an eclectic style lunch with NYT Bestselling Author Karen White, Missy Tippens, Meg Moseley, Lindi Peterson and Ciara Knight. This will be an intimate gathering of approximately 35 readers and five authors. You'll be able to meet ALL the attending authors!! Thank you to FoxTale Book Shoppe for being our bookseller for this event!

CHRISTIAN FICTION ROCKS!! Vote for your favorite book of 2014 in Family Fiction Magazine’s TOP TEN LIST contest and be entered to win your choice of FIVE MORE!! Check out Julie Lessman’s “Christian Fiction Rocks” giveaway HERE, and let your voice be heard! Note: You do not have to vote for Julie to enter the contest.


Just in Time for Valentine's Day! FREE DOWNLOAD of Julie Lessman’s award-winning Irish love story, A Light in the Window (178 five-star reviews on Amazon!) for five days only — February10-14, 2015, so mark your calendars now and spread the word!! And be sure to check out the ALITW video starring Julie’s daughter HERE!!

It was so much fun giving away copies of Homestead Brides with THREE Seekers in the collection of nine novellas,  that we're doing it again this week.  That's right! THREE copies to three lucky commenters this weekend. BUT YOU HAVE TO TELL US YOU WANT IT! Lots of other great authors are included in this collection. You can purchase it HERE-it releases February 1.  Winners announced in the next Weekend Ed

Random News & Information

Thanks to everyone who sent links! 

 How Are You Celebrating National Readathon Day? (GalleyCat) BTW, Seekerville is celebrating by giving away a prize package of books. Just let us know you want your name in the draw. Winner announced next Saturday.

Tweet of note: Emily Rodmell ‏@EmilyRodmell  · Jan 21 
If you don't know who you're submitting to and what they acquire, you're wasting your time. Research editors and agents before hitting send.

4 Steps to Happy Writing Productivity (Writers in the Storm)

In Defense of Editing (PJ Media) 

 Don't Start Your Story Unless You Know These 5 Things (Novel Rocket)

 4 Ways Besides Query Letters You Can Contact Literary Agents (Writers in the Storm)

The 2015 Edgar Award Nominees have been announced. 

Kindle Unlimited December payout to authors rises to $1.43 as KDP Select total royalties double (rogerpacker)

How To Set Writing Goals For The New Year In Six Easy Steps (the Future of ink)\

Two Red-Flag Sentences in Publishing Contracts (Writer Beware)

We Leave You with the  No Limits Quote of the Week: (because every step counts!)


Friday, January 23, 2015

The Power Of The Right Turn

with guest Elizabeth Van Tassel.

When life throws you a major hurdle, how do you survive, not give up, and create a memorable moment in the midst of difficulties?
Time for a break, or way past time?

After we lost our home in a wildfire, survived a season of joblessness, and walked through my son’s and husband’s significant medical emergencies, our family got pretty good at recognizing when we needed a break. Sometimes we waited too long and it felt like we had zoomed through stop signs in our path, which left us drained and exhausted. This season of great loss, punctuated with deaths and other challenges, spurred us to look within a one-to-two hour driving radius for simple outings, such as visiting museums, seeing wildflowers in the spring, trying different beaches to find our favorite one, and driving a bit to enjoy cultural opportunities.

What is a right turn?
During very stressful times, taking a right turn by creating an intentional moment is so important. It can include something small like a walk on the beach or visiting a pretty place to change the topic for a while. Eventually, we developed this saying: “We need a right turn. Let’s try…”

How can right turns help?
 When you’re surrounded by bills from a lengthy hospital stay, or mounds of paperwork, coping with the loss of a family member, or confronted yet again with a difficult situation, it’s very easy to let the problem creep into your sense of self. Like ink bleeding into fabric, the stress weeds its way into every area of your life, exerting itself, until it threatens to choke out gratitude, simplicity, joy, and fruitfulness.

It’s important is to make room for other things so you realize you’re not defined by the crisis; rather, you are walking through it. Together. Planning something to lift your spirits renews your commitment to remain a team and not be divided in how you handle the pressure.

Right turns sometimes come unexpectedly.
For several days in a row I’ve had priority interrupts (like the car dying) and found myself out of the office at unexpected times. Before our years of upheaval I’d get frustrated. Now I take a breath, and ask, “Is there anything positive in this situation?” (For example, at least it didn’t die on the freeway or hurt anyone.)

Taking time-outs for refreshment can help your family remain close in the midst of a great change. It can be a hike, baking something tempting, or seeking out someplace to let your mind rest from the trial at hand.

Time for a break, or way past time?

Right turns refill your creativity.
The right turn can also work for stagnant writing by bringing new freshness to your characters and perspective. Sometimes I need a change of pace. Connecting with a friend over coffee; planning a party; doing something thoughtful for someone; walking alone on the beach; researching some gemstones (since I’m a gemologist and gems feature in my writing and speaking); taking a sketch pad or photo and starting a painting. Doing something wildly creative in a different venue can reinvigorate my writing.

I write tween fiction and feature a talking dragonfly in my upcoming fantasy story. To better connect with gestures he might make, I studied pictures and painted them before writing his character profile.
Need to understand your character? Paint, draw, or create them anew.

These paintings won’t make it to the Met, but it was a helpful exercise to loosen the gears.

When my mother faced breast cancer, and I couldn’t be with her for the whole journey, I painted a huge flower arrangement. With each brush stroke, I prayed through my grief for what she was facing. With each shadow or line, I let God heal the rift in my heart from her struggles. Then I presented it to her, so she had a tangible hug from me whenever she needed it. Another example: when my in-laws recently sold their home, I painted a picture of it. I prayed for the changes ahead for them with each brush stroke. I asked God to bless their new neighbors and bring them hidden joy with this big transition. It was a nice painting to give them, but it also represented my heart on a deeper level of connection to their change.

Right turns can bring God into the rough times.
When you become a parent, nothing can quite prepare you for the great shift in priorities that such a little person makes. Coping with a loss or huge change is similar to early moments of parenting, because time slows down as you address their immediate needs. The laundry can pile, the bills might stack up, but seeing to their needs is most important for a season of life. This constant demand can be very exhausting and draining.

When my youngest son had three years of chronic ear infections, causing him much pain and costing us a lot of sleep, I learned to be much more flexible with the daily schedule. If I’d been up all night, other things had to slip so we could cope. This was happening as we moved repetitively after the fires into rental homes, six times in two-and-a-half years, due to a string of bad luck with people from whom we rented going belly-up financially. I think the Lord wanted us to learn the importance of solvency before we replaced our own belongings. I also know those four years of difficulty brought us so close as a family.
Moving six times in two years? I wouldn’t recommend it!
But the challenges brought us closer.

What could have divided us, instead made us stronger and brought God’s word out of the Bible and into our everyday lives with our deepened dependence on Jesus. Like taking someone’s pulse, I learned to listen more intently to the subtle heart-whispers of the Lord and react in the moment. Whether it was addressing medical needs, or adapting to change, I strove to find a point of joy in the day when things were bleak. When joy was elusive, we piled in the car, prayed, and picked a direction for an outing. We were not evading the problem, but once addressed, we did not let the problem invade our sense of self or family.

Some of our favorite right turns:

Soon after the fires we found this great Star Trek exhibit at a museum.

We love to visit the butterflies each spring. It brings simple joy and wonder.
Years have passed, kids have grown, but we still love a right turn.
This Christmas we surprised our kids with a trip to Hawaii.

What are some ways you handle difficult times? What have been some of your favorite right turns? How do you find encouragement to press on when life throws you a curve ball? I’d love to hear from you.

Elizabeth Van Tassel has faced life’s challenges with humor and grace while maintaining her faith. Having lost her family’s home to a wildfire, as well as experiencing a myriad of health and other life-altering trials, she teaches real-life lessons and helps tweens, teens, and their parents build a treasure box of tools to face the hardest trials of life. Her background with gems and love for history brings a special flair to her speaking, classes, coaching, and fiction and nonfiction writing. You can find her at where she blogs about leading a resilient life and her upcoming tween fantasy work. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or by signing up for her updates here.

Today I am offering a special giveaway to three commenters. I’m giving away two 20-minute coaching sessions for two people who need ideas for being more resilient with outlook or priorities (per my website). You can use it for yourself, or perhaps gift it to a friend. You can also use the time for me to research ideas for right turns in your area.

I’m also offering a $25 gift certificate for some pampering at Bath and Bodyworks, so you can take a break when you need it most! Please indicate which items you’d like to be entered for and the winners will be announced in the Weekend Edition.

Don't forget to mention you want your name entered for these giveaways!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Turning Truth Into Fiction

Turning Truth into Fiction
Anne Mateer

As novelists, we are always adding “real life” happenings to our stories. Bits and pieces. Here and there. Mashups of truth layered with fiction. But have you ever come across a real life story—your own or someone else’s, historical or contemporary—and wanted to use it as the plot of your entire novel? My guess is yes. And yet attempting to actually translate a true story into fiction is not as easy as it sounds.

I ran up against this problem fifteen years ago when I wanted to write my great-grandparents’ story of love amidst the Great War and the Spanish flu pandemic. Wrangling it into fiction proved unwieldy, and I couldn’t quite figure out why. I set the story aside for nearly ten years. When I came back to it, I’d learned a few things that helped me take a story from my family history and turn it into a readable novel.

photo credit: CanStockPhoto/ 72Soul

Here are three of the biggest problems I’ve found in turning a true story into a novel:

Real life stories don’t usually have a clear story structure.

Few of us have situations in our lives with a definite beginning and a definite end. Perhaps we can find one or the other. Rarely both. Often neither. Add to that the need for a novel to have clear conflict and defined turning points and you will notice that it becomes almost impossible to plop down an entire real life situation and find story structure in place.

Real life stories rarely have a character arc in place that follows the true timeline of the story.

We process the things that happen to us and to others through the lens of time. In the midst of the actual events the person experiencing them may have had little self-awareness as to how the events or situations were changing them. Yes, they might have be aware that their thinking shifted, causing them to make different decisions, but most likely true clarity came as they lived their lives in the aftermath of that change.

Real life stories are often too complicated for a novel—or too simplistic.

Tension and conflict are desirable for a novel. But sometimes a real life situation has too much—too many characters, too many outside issues, too many different threads. Telling that story “as is” makes for a convoluted novel. Or the opposite might be true. A story that sounds rife with conflict and emotion up front might not have enough in the surrounding story or characters to create a full length book.

Photo credit: CanStockPhoto/ bruesw

These three issues can build a brick wall between our efforts to translate the true story of a person or an event into fiction. But there is a sledgehammer that will break through and help us get where we want to go. It is this:

A novelist is a storyteller, first and foremost. When we tackle a real life story, we can have a tendency to allow the substance of the story to overcome the essence of it. Remind your inner historian or journalist that they must let the storyteller drive this train. If you insist on staying true to every fact of the story you want to tell, you need to write it as non-fiction.

With your storytelling sledgehammer in hand, approach the true story with three swings.

Be willing to add to the facts.

Add subplots that heighten tension over the main conflict. Create new characters that didn’t exist in real life to act as mentors or foils to your protagonist. Make sure the protagonist has clear “want” and isn’t just reacting to a situation thrust upon them. Draw a clear epiphany that maybe didn’t happen in real life until much later.

Be willing to subtract from the facts.

You might need to condense the facts of the real story. Shrink the number of characters or the timeline or both. Reorder events. Simplify backstory.

Be willing to reimagine the facts.

Assign motives to characters whose actions in real life were inexplicable. Create logical connections between people and events that remain disconnected in real life. Rethink conflict to make it relatable to the reader. Make the inner or outer journey of the main character more visible than it was in real life. Maybe even reimagine the conclusion of the story, especially if in the true version there was no actual moment of closure.

When you can allow your storytelling sledgehammer to break through the wall of fact, you can transform a real life story into a focused and compelling work of fiction. And if you feel the overwhelming need to set your readers straight on some of the more important facts, there is always the Author’s Note at the end.

Missy here… Do any of you have true stories you're dying to turn into fiction? Do share!

Anne Mateer enjoys exploring history and spiritual truth through fiction. She is the author of four historical novels set in the years just before and during World War I. Besides writing, Anne also teaches an online class on historical fiction through Margie Lawson’s Writers Academy. Anne and her husband live in Texas and have three young adult children. Find out more about Anne’s books and how to connect with her at

Playing By Heart
Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But when she receives a shocking telephone call from her sister, Jewel, everything she's worked for begins to crumble.
After the sudden death of Jewel's husband, Jewel needs Lula's help. With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister. But the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Neither subject belongs anywhere near the halls of academia, according to Lula!
Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year, determined to do well and prove herself to the town. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys' coach, Chet, to learn the game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She's returning to college as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet.
However, the more time she spends around Jewel's family, the girls' basketball team, music classes, and Chet, the more Lula comes to realize what she's given up in her single-minded pursuit of degree after degree. God is working on her heart, and her future is starting to look a lot different than she'd expected.