Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Weekend Edition

I absolutely love the rain!

Why? Because:

  • It's romantic
  • Rain is cozy.
  • I am reminded of this John Michael Montgomery song.
  • Dancing in the rain is the most wonderful thing.
  • Sleeping in when it's raining is bliss.
  • I love the sound of rain.
  • I love the smell of rain.
  • It's cleansing.
What about you? Do you love the rain?

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! And P.S. - if we forget to send  your prize DO let us know after 8 weeks per our rules. 

Winner of a set of the Historical & Contemporary Collection of With This Kiss is Deanne (Cnnamongirl).

Monday Love Inspired Historical author Janet Dean shared ways to up the emotion in your stories as she revisited her post “Seven Tools to Add Emotion to your Writing.” Winner of With This Kiss historical novella collection is Nancy C and the winner of With This Kiss contemporary novella collection is Dana R Lynn.  

Tuesday Bethany House author and marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy Melissa Tagg talked “the talk” with her post “Tips to Take Your Dialogue to the Next Level.“ The Artist Librarian is the winner of Melissa’s latest book, From the Start.

Wednesday  Seekerville was delighted to welcome Heartsong Presents author Karen Fleming back with her post, "Romancing Your Readers Like a Romantic Comedy." Tammy Baumann is the winner of  a great read (Karen's latest release, Her Hometown Reporter) and a Starbuck's gift card.

Thursday we welcomed back award winning author Melanie Dickerson, with her post, "Anatomy of an Edit." Leslie McKee is the lucky winner of her new release from Thomas NelsonThe Huntress of Thornbeck Forest. 

Author and editor Sandie Bricker was our special guest today. Sandy brought us the details of the Bling! Diamond Award Contest. Winner of a  writer book surprise package is Anna Weaver Hurtt, winner of a reader surprise book package is Caryl Kane.

 Next Week In Seekerville

Monday: "How does your Speedbo garden Grow, Part II." So, you spent the entire month of March hard at work sowing words in your writing garden. So, what’s going to happen in April, May, and June? What about July or August? Pam Hillman is today’s hostess and she’ll offer tips on seeing a bountiful harvest from your Speedbo labors.

Tuesday: Love Inspired author and Seeker, Tina Radcliffe is your hostess today with her post, "Book Matter: What is it and Why Does it Matter?" Giveaway? Well, of course!

Wednesday:Join Ruth Logan Herne who asks the vital question: "Have You Put Success on Your Schedule, and If Not? Why Not?" Ruthy will mostly yell at you about not visualizing yourself as the highly successful person you deserve to be as long as you don't trip your sweet self up by not getting out of your own way! Stop by, leave a comment, to get your name in the hat dish for one of several copies, YES!!!  Win-It-Before-You-Can-Buy-It , Ruthy's 4 1/2 Star love story Healing the Lawman's Heart. 

Thursday: Author Cindy Green is our special guest today with her post, "Goodreads Marketing." Of course we have a giveaway too!

Friday: Stop by today for the May Contest Update and to meet our May Diva/Divo. The prize vault is open!

Seeker Sightings

Congratulations to Ruth Logan Herne. Her June release, Healing the Lawman's Heart, received 4 1/2 STARS from Romantic Times Book Reviews!

Every weekend for the rest of April, 
we're giving away a set (one  copy of each) of With This Kiss-Historical & Contemporary Collections

 Just say you want  one!

Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.

Award-winning author Debby Giusti is one of sixty authors hosting tables at Barbara Vey’s Reader Appreciation Luncheon, today, in Milwaukee, WI. The afternoon will be filled with fun, gift bags full of books and door prizes, plus lots of raffle drawings for author baskets. NYT best seller Tess Gerritsen is the keynote speaker and a mega-signing follows that’s open to the public. Proceeds from the event will benefit the American Cancer Society. Debby also attended the Friday evening Author Q&A that was open to the public.

Debby and Barbara will blog about the luncheon on Seekerville, Thursday, May 14th. Get a sneak peak Monday, April 27, when Debby posts a few pictures and highlights on

Missy Tippens new release, The Doctor's Second Chance, will be featured on Margaret Daley's blog the week of May 4th. Please drop by! She'll be offering a giveaway.

Random News & Information

Links contributed by Villagers and Seekers!

Congratulations to the 2015 Christy Award Finalists!

A Call for Stories: Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog 
101 Heartwarming Stories about Our Happy, Heroic & Hilarious Pets. Deadline is August 31st.     

10 Secrets to Write Better Stories (The Write Practice)

Shame and Your Writing Career (Writer Unboxed)

Check out-Write A House!

 Romance Novels Are Primed To Make An Impact On Society, So Stop Calling Them "Trashy," OK? (Bustle)

 First Bookstore Dedicated to Self-Published Authors Opens in Florida (PW)

How to choose the perfect book title (The BookBaby Blog)

Be a More Productive Writer While Also Achieving Balance (Jane Friedman)

 Our #NoLimits thought for the week:
Have a great writing and reading week!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Adding a Little Bling!

with guest Sandie Bricker

I’m not sure where I heard the story for the first time … or if I dreamed it up in my own head as a kid … but for as long as I can remember, I’ve believed that each of us had something whispered in our ear at the time of creation; something uniquely personal that determines our God-given destiny. For many of us here in Seekerville, we likely heard, “Writer.”

I’d published a dozen books by the time I realized every writer doesn’t necessarily have a gift for editing as well. It always came naturally to me. A misplaced comma, a misspelled word, continuity in storyline, an email with no paragraph breaks … these are the things that try writers’ souls! Or at least they always tried mine. The unique turn of phrase from a new-to-me writer has always stopped me in my tracks. So when Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas founder Eddie Jones invited me to consider designing and managing an imprint of romantic fiction, I did what writer/editor types do. I grabbed a pen … and made a list of pros.

I love fiction!
I get to mentor writers.
I’m pretty good at organizing and scheduling.

Check, check, and check!

I talked to a lot of readers, writers, and agents during that time to find out what kind of publishing imprint they’d like to see created that offered them an outlet not already out there somewhere. While agents’ thoughts turned more toward advances and higher royalty percentages, readers and authors seemed to crave essentially the same thing:

“Lose the formula. Let writers put words on the page that follow our own story path rather than write to detailed requirements that make so many romance novels seem interchangeable.”

“Tell us a realistic story, one that we can believe. Show us characters who are like us, flaws and all.”

“Even though my faith is the most important aspect of my life, I’m not a pearl-wearing church-goer who never has a glass of wine or sees a movie. I’d like to read books about people like me.”
“Let us write a book for the CBA that allows for the transformation of a character without soaking the growth in milk to bland it down. If a recovering alcoholic is actually recovering, can’t we be trusted to use a tasteful approach to showing at least a glimpse of the alcoholic pre-recovery?

I related to these concerns about the structure of writing for the CBA because I came from a fairly secular worldview as a Hollywood publicist and aspiring screenwriter. It took me quite a lot of trying before I finally found my place in inspirational publishing. In fact, when Summerside Press invited me to launch their Love Finds You line, I felt like I’d finally been handed the key to the side door entry of a private club. My hope with LPC’s Bling! imprint was to offer other writers a shot at that key as well, and that these authors would meet the evolving needs of today’s readers.

We chose the name Bling! Romance as an homage to the little shiny something extra a woman reaches for when she wants to stand out. We wanted to design a line that allowed a broader stroke in plots and characters for readers as well as give an opportunity to some writers who – like me – had been dreaming of finding their place in that isolated community high on the hilltop.
All that said, there’s a significant challenge to an undertaking like Bling! Romance. The down side to creating something unique for writers is that writers don’t actually know to come looking for you! The up side, however, is that you can eventually be that different kind of publisher they’re seeking; both for them and for their potential readers.

We had several discussions about how Bling! could offer additional opportunities tailored toward creating a publishing home for standout writers. Because I benefited so much from entering contests in developing my own career as a writer, it seemed like a good avenue for generating fresh new content for Bling! while providing aspiring and early-career authors the opportunity to add contest recognition to their resumes.

I discovered in my own pursuits that entering contests early in a career can be beneficial in a host of ways. Attaching your name and project to an award adds a certain amount of cachet to your writer cred. Also, preparing for a contest hones skills like writing toward a deadline, revising and polishing your work, and even developing a more casual relationship with rejection. As an added bonus, entering a contest where agents and editors serve as judges puts your work in front of them in a way that leaps over their slush piles. If you final – or even win! – you may also have the added bonus of garnering the interest of an agent or getting that novel into print.

With those benefits in mind, 2015 will be the first year for what we hope will be an annual contest event if new writers respond to the opportunity. The Bling! Romance DIAMOND AWARDS will highlight excellence in contemporary romantic fiction. The contest will provide three finalists the opportunity for unbiased feedback on their work by professional editors and agents. In addition, one winner will receive a Grand Prize Package to include priority consideration toward a contract with Bling! for the publication of their book.

For writers interested in entering the contest, click here. Additional details can be found on the awards page of the Bling! website. We’re hoping to see the DIAMOND AWARDS grow with each passing year to become a viable platform for the discovery and recognition of unique author voices.

So … to writers and readers alike … what are you looking for that isn’t often found out there in the CBA marketplace? After you close the cover of a book, what were the qualities that keep the story and characters in your mind?

Sandie Bricker was an entertainment publicist in Los Angeles for 15+ years where she attended school to learn screenwriting and eventually taught the craft for several semesters. When she put Hollywood in the rearview mirror and headed across the country to take care of her mom until she passed away, she traded her scripts for books, and a best-selling, award-winning author of LIVE-OUT-LOUD fiction for the inspirational market was born. Sandie is best known for her Another Emma Rae Creation series for Abingdon Press. As an ovarian cancer survivor, she gears time and effort toward raising awareness and funds for research, diagnostics and a cure.


She is also the Managing Editor of Bling! Romance, the new contemporary romance imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (LPC). Bling! will launch in Fall 2015, releasing two new contemporary novels each quarter.

Seekerville shares the fun of Bling! Romance and The Diamond Awards with a special surprise book giveaway. One for a reader and one for a writer. Just let us know you want to be entered! Winners announced in the Weekend Edition!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Anatomy of an Edit

with guest Melanie Dickerson.

Before I was published, editors seemed to be these mysterious beings who held sacred knowledge about writing and story and revision. I could hardly wait until I had my very own editor to glean from, someone who would love my story as I did and would help make it even better.

Now that I’m published, I haven’t changed my beliefs about editors very much, because from my (albeit limited) experience, they truly do have amazing abilities when it comes to seeing a story as a whole—the forest AND the trees—and knowing what would help to make it better.

But lately I’ve had a few people tell me that they don’t intend to ever try to get traditionally published because they don’t want an editor telling them to make changes on their books. They stated that it would be too stressful, and others said they didn’t want to give up control over their book or any aspect of it. Once they finish it, they plan to self-publish. Period.

So, I thought I would explain what really happens at publishing house when it comes to edits, and why an author would actually WANT to submit to this process. I’ll be giving examples from the three types of edits we did on my new Medieval romance, The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest, in partnership with my wonderful editors at Thomas Nelson.

There are basically three types of edits. 

1. Content edits, also known as macro, substantive, and developmental edits.
2. Line edits
3. Copy edits

Some might consider line edits and copy edits the same thing, but in my experience, the line edits were more in-depth, and copy editors proofread after the main edits were done.

The first edits an author receives are from the content editor, your main point of contact, with whom you also communicate about the cover, the back cover copy, and various issues that come up. This editor looks at the big picture of your novel and every aspect of plot and characters. They put their observations in the greatly anticipated “editorial letter.”

In this letter you may be asked to change characters, eliminate characters, to make changes to your plot, to eliminate a subplot, or to create one. But all these changes are usually stated as suggestions, not forced changes set in stone. Your editor will tell you what the problem is and allow you to decide how to fix it, while giving you some ideas about how you might do that. Ultimately, it’s up to you how to fix it, and even, in most cases, whether you even want to or not. You get to choose. It’s your book.

I will give an example from my editorial letter for The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest. This was my first time writing for Thomas Nelson, and also my first book geared toward an adult audience rather than a Young Adult audience. I really wanted this book to be as “clean” as my YA books, but at the same time be a little more appealing to adult readers.

In my editorial letter, my editor, Becky Monds, stated that The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest “reads too young.” This was one of her main concerns about the novel and the one I’ll give examples about. And since I didn’t want this story to “read too young,” I listened.

(BTW, Dina Sleiman just shared a great post earlier this month about what constitutes YA fiction.) [Link:]

Becky made a few suggestions about how to “age up” the story, and especially the heroine, Odette. The controlling stepfather made Odette seem more like a child than a mature woman of twenty years old. She suggested I eliminate the overbearing stepfather, Rutger, and the heroine’s passive mother, and make Odette an adult orphan who is independent.

As Becky said in her letter, if I were to make this change: “Odette becomes a much more active heroine. She is the one setting the terms for her poaching. She isn’t being manipulated by anyone.”

I mulled it over and knew Becky was right about Odette seeming too young and needing to be more in control of her life. However, I didn’t think I could make her totally independent and living alone. It wouldn’t be authentic to the Medieval time period. So instead, after talking to Becky on the phone, I decided to make Odette an orphan, as Becky suggested, but I replaced the controlling stepfather with an easy-going uncle-guardian who would allow her to make her own life choices, and he would retain the name Rutger. This would help Odette seem older and more mature but still preserve the historical authenticity. I was very happy with this change.

But now I had to do the work. I would have to change Rutger’s role in the story, as he had been the evil villain. I had to figure out who would do the bad stuff that Rutger had done. I used a combination of people, including Rutger, but from different motives this time. It actually worked very well and didn’t take that long to figure out.

I had to change every single conversation the heroine had with Rutger, as his personality was now the very opposite from what it was before. Sometimes this was surprisingly easy, but other times . . . not so much. I also eliminated the mother, which wasn’t hard since she was so passive and actually served no real purpose.

But I liked the changes. It worked very well and achieved my goals for the story. Also, on Becky’s suggestion, I made changes to Odette’s best friend. From Becky’s letter:

“I love the role that Anna plays as a confidant for Odette and eventually the ultimate confidant when she tells Anna that she is poaching. But Anna acts very young herself. If Anna is married with perhaps a child or two, it will help Odette feel older, even if she has never married nor had children. As it is now, when Anna and Odette get together and talk about Peter and Jorgen, it feels like two giddy teenagers. Putting Anna in a more mature stage in her life will elevate their conversations to a more mature level.”

So that’s what I did. It was also a more believable scenario for the time period, to have a 21-year-old woman married with children.

All of these changes had lots of repercussions. I had to do a LOT of work. But I believe it was worth it, and it all paid off. I think it’s a much stronger story, and the changes I made to Rutger’s character made him much more complex and set the story up for a really big plot twist near the end that I thought was much better than the way I originally ended the story. Yay! I love surprise plot twists, and even more when they surprise me!

Now on to line edits.

The second stage of editing is the line edits. My line editor for The Huntress was Julee Schwarzburg. She helped me with all kinds of things, like smoothing out awkward sentences, eliminating unnecessary and repetitious words, and lots of other things that editors are known for.

As an example, on the first page of Chapter Two of The Huntress, Julee deleted two unnecessary commas in the first sentence. She deleted an unnecessary speaker attribution. (These were all optional deletions, made in Track Changes, so that I could accept or reject the changes as I wished. But I usually accept, as I usually like the changes.) She also made this comment in the margin: “Somewhere in this chapter can you describe what Odette’s dress is like? For example, is she wearing a kirtle with a scooped neckline? Or whatever is appropriate for this time period and Germany.”

Since I know I am too sparse in my descriptions in my first draft, it was a good suggestion. I always find myself adding descriptions of dress and setting at this stage, and a good line editor will remind me to do that.

On the second and third pages of Chapter Two, Julee highlighted a large portion and said, “This is great information, but I think we need to move this to ch. 1 so we know what the stakes are when Odette is first seen poaching.”

Another great suggestion, which I complied with. We went through the entire manuscript together three times, making changes on practically every page, fixing our inevitable mistakes on the second and third passes from when we copied and pasted or deleted, and also catching other mistakes and awkward wordings, etc.

And I think that gives you a good idea of what a line editor does and how much work it is for both the editor and the author, but also how much it improves the writing.

Lastly, I believe I had at least a couple of copy editors on The Huntress who looked over the entire manuscript and made minimal changes and suggestions, including a couple of grammar issues. Mainly, copy editors fix the things the other editors and author miss.

For instance, there was a sentence that read: They were going about their normal daily chores and shopping, not knowing that just above them a young girl’s life was hanging uncertainly, doomed to a sordid, ugly life.

The copy editor said: As written, the clause "doomed to a sordid, ugly life" modifies "young girl's life," but it is Kathryn, not her life, that is doomed. Can it be reworked?

Of course. I reworked it. 

And there you have it, examples from the three types of editing from The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest. This is why I appreciate my editors so very much. Editing a book is a ton of work, for the editor as well as the author, but it’s worth it. I believe the book is much better for the editors who worked on it and all their suggestions—and all the HARD WORK I DID! (Haha! I had to add that!)

So, questions for you. What do you think of having an editor suggest changes to your work? Do my examples help you see how helpful editors can be? And/or, What are some of the most major changes you ever did to one of your books? Come on, make it good, so I won’t feel like I’m the only one who ever had to make major changes! And I’ll put you in a drawing to win a copy of The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest. (Winner announced in the Weekend Edition)

Melanie Dickerson is the author of fairy tale retellings set in Medieval Europe, including two Christy Award finalists and a Carol Award winner. She lives in north Alabama with her two teenage daughters and all their angst, and her husband, who is the sole male in a house where even their two guinea pigs are females. She enjoys watching movies based on Jane Austen’s books, and she literally has no other hobbies, as she’s always writing. Or editing. Or a combination of the two.



The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest

A beautiful maiden who poaches to feed the poor. A handsome forester on a mission to catch her. Danger and love are about to unite in Thornbeck Forest.

The margrave owns the finest hunting grounds for miles around—and Odette Menkels spends her nights poaching his deer to feed the hungry orphans of Thornbeck. By day, Odette is a simple maiden who teaches children to read, but by night this young beauty has become the secret lifeline to the poorest of the poor.

For Jorgen Hartman, the margrave’s forester, tracking down a poacher is a duty he is all too willing to perform. Jorgen inherited his post from the man who raised him, a man who was murdered at the hands of a poacher.

When Jorgen and Odette meet at the Midsummer festival and share a connection during a dance, neither has any idea that they are already adversaries.
The one man she wants is bound by duty to capture her; the one woman he loves is his cunning target. What becomes of a forester who protects a notorious poacher? What becomes of a poacher when she is finally discovered?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Romancing Your Readers Like a Romantic Comedy

with guest Karen Fleming.

Hi everyone. It’s so great to be back visiting the Seekers, Villagers, and all you wonderful readers. Thank you for inviting me to blog today.

This post is tailored to writers but readers and any lovers of romantic comedies can relate to our discussion. My favorite movies, the ones where I own the DVD but I still watch them when they’re on television, are romantic comedies. You’ve Got Mail, While You Were Sleeping, The Wedding Date, 27 Dresses, Maid of Honor, Charade, An Affair to Remember, and Sleepless in Seattle. If it’s about a romance, I’ve probably seen it several times.

Showing your hero and heroine falling in love in a sweet, inspirational, or young adult romance plays out very much like the romance that unfolds during a romantic comedy. Boy meets girl. (Opening) There’s a spark. (Attraction, Sexual Tension, Awareness) Problems crop up (Conflict) that keep boy and girl from declaring their love and riding off into the sunset. Otherwise, the movie would be the length of a half hour sitcom and our books would be the shortest version of a novella ever printed. Then they each have an epiphany (Black Moment) and nothing will stop them from that blissful happily ever after. 

My all-time favorite scene is the “Leaning” scene in While You Were Sleeping. Jack, the hero, arrives at heroine, Lucy’s, apartment just in time to see her give Joe, Jr. a hug as thanks for the flowers he brought her. (Jack and his family mistakenly believe Lucy is engaged to Jack’s brother Peter, who is in a coma. A friend of Jack’s family has convinced Lucy to let him tell Jack’s family the truth—but he hasn’t yet.)

Jack misinterprets what he sees and shortly after that, an argument ensues. Here’s the basic set up and gist of the dialogue in the key moment of the scene. Jack and Lucy are standing outside her apartment building.

Jack: It was a misunderstanding and on top of the Joe, Jr. thing.
Lucy: What Joe, Jr. thing?
Jack: Nothing.
Lucy: There’s no “nothing” now. What? Because he gave me flowers?
Jack: And then you leaned.
Lucy: How did I lean when I leaned?

(The previous part of their discussion was while they were standing about 2 feet apart. He comes closer as he explains the leaning thing.)

Jack, as he’s moving in: Leaning is different from hugging. Hugging involves arms and hands.

 (He gets a little closer and she’s caught between him and the wall behind her. His voice is lower, more gravelly. His gaze is locked onto hers. She’s his complete focus.)

Jack: Leaning is whole bodies, moving in… (voice a bit lower, his gaze roaming her face, searching) Leaning is about wanting and accepting…

Joe, Jr: Hey, Luce. Is this guy bothering you? ‘Cause, you know, it looks like he’s leaning.

If you read the above exchange without the physical movements notated, it loses some of
its effectiveness. You don’t want to tell your reader everything that’s going on, but you want to draw their eye or their imagination to the important things happening between your characters.

When you write dialogue that will convey emotion, attitude, or intentions about their relationship, you need to add a little bit of physical movement or reaction. And those movements need to be as purposeful and revealing about the characters as the dialogue you use.

The camera in the scene I described, zoomed in on Jack’s face, as he got closer, as his voice lowered, as his gaze roamed her face. We didn’t need to know about a car backfiring on the street or her twirling her hair. Although if we had been in her point of view, that could be a good outward expression of her reaction to him. It was the two of them and nothing else.

I included Joe, Jr.’s line because it’s so jarring and pulls us out of the intimacy of the moment just like inserting something outside the focus of that moment you’ve created between your characters within your scene.

Using Jack’s comparison between hugging and leaning, think about your movements and the placement of your hands when you hug your sweetie. Is it the same as when you hug a friend, relative, or co-worker? It’s not. It’s more intimate—closer. Your reader can feel that if you’ve clearly painted the image of that romantic tug between your characters in the scene.

The next point that is so important in a romance is believability. Your reader will go along with a lot of things that you throw at your characters under the guise of the suspension of disbelief. But if you don’t convince the reader that your hero and heroine should or can be together, they can’t connect with them or your story.

In 27 Dresses, Jane is the kindest, sweetest, gentlest, doormat that ever lived. The 27 dresses are all bride’s maid dresses for the weddings she’s been in. She is the consummate romantic, believing that the happily ever after begins with the wedding. She gives all her joy of romance to the brides on their day because she believes they will do the same for her on her day.

Kevin is a reporter who covers weddings for the commitments section of the newspaper. His descriptions of the weddings are so romantically evocative that Jane cuts them out and saves them to reread later. But Kevin is a cynic. He writes these articles and the drivel of the romance nonsense strictly for the paycheck. He doesn’t believe in happily ever after.

He is Jane’s ultimate anti-hero. He’s the villain, or worse, a fraud. In her eyes, there is nothing lovable about him. He’s cute, but she doesn’t believe he has a heart, at least not a romantic one. There is nothing on this earth that would compel her to fall in love with him. Nothing that would change her view of him. He is unredeemable. Until…

During one of their snipe fests (which by the way, is an excellent way to show attraction when the hero and heroine aren’t comfortable with who they’re attracted to and are resisting the tug of said attraction) and she asks him what happened to him to make him so cynical. She asks if he had his own fancy wedding and his wife left him.

Kevin’s stunning reply:  “Bingo. With my roommate from college, by the way. So I think you get an extra bingo for that.”

In Jane’s mind, he’d experienced what she envisioned as the most awful, painful thing that could happen to anyone—ever. Now, his cynicism is justified. He can have a hard heart because his heart has been broken. To her, he’s just become human. Believable. It’s the only thing that could have happened that would make him lovable in her eyes.

 A sweet, young adult, or inspirational romance has to play on the emotional part of romance. It in no way makes the story or the experience for the reader any less intense. I cry every time I watch Lucy’s monologue at the wedding when she tells the truth about her relationship with Peter and her reason for lying.

Just because you’ve removed the physical culmination of their love (sex) from the story, you still have to show attraction and the act of falling in love. You have to reveal the characters’ fight within themselves against the fall. And the more convincing you make it for the reader, the more moving and unforgettable it is for them. That’s what you want as a writer. You’re trying to give them an escape into a story that is a real life fairy tale where happily ever after exists. If you do it right, you will.

And it just so happens that I have a newspaper man as the hero in my third book in the Pemberly series, Her Hometown Reporter, releasing May 1st.


The reporter is looking for a story that'll be his ticket out of his small Georgia town. With her political connections, legal assistant Gina Lawson could help Toby realize his aspirations. Their friendship is just an added bonus, but falling in love isn't part of his five-year plan. 

Gina's devoted to her family and community, and doesn't plan to ever leave. Though she finds her favorite reporter maddeningly irresistible, she must guard her heart. But when a betrayal of trust threatens to shatter both their dreams, will Gina and Toby learn that they share the same values after all?

**So my question to everyone is, “What couple, movie or book-wise, is your favorite romantic pairing?” 

Speaking of pairing...comment today for a chance to win Her Hometown Reporter and a ten dollar Starbucks gift card for some  guaranteed happiness. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.

KD Fleming's romance writing adventure began on a dare and it didn’t take long for her to discover she had the heart of a storyteller.Writing both sweet and inspirational stories about strong women who could be any one of us, her heroines are sassy and fierce. And once their hearts are engaged by the man who is destined for them, there's no chance the hero won't fall—but what a way to go.

KD lives in sunny Florida with her hero husband of 16 years. She loves music (all things Casting Crowns and OneRepublic), Marvel Movies--ALL things Avengers (ahem, *Robert Downey, Jr*, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, and Mark Ruffalo). Oh my!

She spends her time taking care of her family, reading, writing, cooking, and coming up with new ideas for fun romance stories.

Contact KD at, @karenkdfleming, or

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tips to Take Your Dialogue to the Next Level

          By guest blogger Melissa Tagg

If you asked me about my faaaavorite part of writing a book, I’d tell you it’s the part when that first shiny copy arrives on your doorstep and you hold it up in the air like Mufasa displaying Simba at the edge of a cliff in Africa…

Wait, nobody else does that?

But one of my other favorite parts—which doesn’t require a “Circle of Life” singalong—is writing dialogue.

My name is Melissa Tagg. And I. Love. Dialogue.

I've heard awesome author Rachel Hauck give the wise advice to “tell the story between the quotes” many times. It’s such good advice. So much of life happens in spoken words, doesn't it?

And to me, dialogue can make or break a story. Here are a few tips for helping our dialogue sizzle instead of settle:

1. Let characters actually SAY what they’re thinking.

Sometimes when I’m writing that first draft I’ll find myself trapping my character’s best lines in his own head. Someone will say something to him, he’ll give an expected and not all that brilliant response, while thinking something funny or sarcastic or argumentative in his head.

But because he chooses not to actually say it, I rob the moment of some great tension. Here’s an example. In the opening scene of my book From the Start, my heroine—Kate, a romantic movie scriptwriter—is talking to an associate producer who has no idea who she is…and has just called her latest screenplay “sentimental fluff.” This is how things looked in the original version:

The AD poked her with his elbow. “Hey, I don’t think I gave you a chance to introduce yourself. You are…”

“Kate Walker.” The writer of that sentimental fluff.

It’s fine like that. We get to see her annoyance. We get to hear her wry internal voice.

But why trap the tension inside Kate alone?

The AD poked her with his elbow. “Hey, I don’t think I gave you a chance to introduce yourself. You are…”

“Kate Walker.” She pulled her hand from her coat pocket and held it out. “The writer of that sentimental fluff.”

His grip on her palm went lax.

Now we get to see the AD’s discomfort and embarrassment and the awkward laughter of the people around them.  The tension stretches outward.

2. Make use of rhythm.

There is something awesome about dialogue that moves in pulsing beats…that clips along at the perfect pace.

I wish there was a simple three-step plan for developing rhythm in our dialogue. But I think it’s more about feeling than process—feeling when it’s right to speed up and then slow it down, break abruptly or let a stretching pause linger.

What’s helped me is watching movies or TV shows where the dialogue sizzles. Like the 1940 movie His Girl Friday. It stars Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell and was a total game-changer when it came to dialogue in movies. For the first time, the director let characters talk over and interrupt each other. Grant and Russell’s dialogue is verbal ping-pong—rapid, witty and rhythmic. Like in this scene:

3. Push your character’s words past her comfort level.

We want our characters to sound like real people. But we don’t always want their conversations to sound like real life conversations. Because often in real life, we don’t let ourselves say…

…the vulnerable things.
…the mean things.
…the risky things.
…the uncomfortable things.
…the true things.

We hold back, we don’t go those places. Sometimes with very good reason.

But in a story, it’s so, SO much better when we force our character to go places in her conversations she’d rather not. To say the things we might not be brave enough to say in real life. It can make for some amazing dialogue on the page…and cool stirrings in the reader’s heart.

Those are three bigger-picture, slightly advanced techniques. Want some quick tips?

1.    Watch Gilmore Girls. I’m totally serious. It has some of the smartest and best dialogue out there…and it’s on Netflix, so binge-away!

2.    Read your dialogue out loud. You’ll quickly catch the spots that aren’t working.

3.    Anytime you can replace a dialogue tag with an action beat, don’t even hesitate…just do it.

4.    Embrace sentence fragments to your heart’s content.

I could go on talking dialogue forever but I should probably make myself stop and instead ask, what tips have YOU found for writing great dialogue? Any movies or TV shows that spark your dialogue creativity?

For a chance to win a copy of From the Start, leave a comment!


Melissa Tagg is a former reporter, current nonprofit grant writer and total Iowa girl. She writes romantic comedy for Bethany House, and is also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for writers. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. Her latest book, From the Start, just released this month. Check out the prequel e-novella Three Little Words free. Melissa blogs regularly at at and loves connecting on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Monday, April 20, 2015


 Janet here. April is a crazy month for me so I updated my 2009 post on writing emotion. If you’re writing and want inspiration or insight into craft, don’t overlook the wealth of information in the Seekerville archives.

In order to sell or keep selling books, writers must make readers care about their characters and become emotionally invested in their lives. To create tension our characters need strong internal and external goals, strong believable motivations and strong internal, external conflict.  

No matter how well we do all this, our books will disappoint if the story doesn't produce strong emotion in our readers. As Vince said in his Seekerville post "What Mega-Selling Authors Know That You Could Use to Boost Sales"—“Fans read romances to satisfy emotional needs that when neglected become cravings.”

If you don't feel emotion, your readers won't.
To provide the emotional read readers crave, writers need to dig into our psyche and draw upon every scrap of emotion we've experienced in order to step into our characters' shoes. To dig deep and open our hearts on the page carries a cost. The reason writers are physically exhausted after writing emotional scenes.

Thankfully we can use craft tools to help produce emotion in readers and take our novels to the next level—engaging readers, satisfying that craving Vince spoke about, while taking the book to SOLD.

Margie Lawson in her “Empowering Characters’ Emotions” class recommends giving characters strong physical reactions that show how characters feel, instead of using the easy way out and telling readers. To avoid overused or clich├ęd
reactions we don't use the first thing that pops into our minds.

From my debut novel, Courting Miss Adelaide, Love Inspired Historical:

“He tried to lift his foot, to climb the steps leading into the house of worship, but he couldn't move. Sweat beaded his forehead and the lump swelled in his throat until he felt he’d suffocate. He bent over and dragged oxygen into his lungs.

A cloud passed between him and the sun, covering him in shadow. A sudden chill streaked down his spine. He couldn't move. Couldn't pray, couldn't worship. 

Too much stood between him and God.”

In the excerpt above, I used physical reactions to show the character’s struggle with attending church. Hopefully this is an emotional scene for readers who know Charles’s churchgoing father was abusive and his childhood prayers for God’s help seemed to go unanswered, destroying his faith.

Make readers laugh
Note: I also varied sentence structure, repeated words, and put the last sentence by itself for emphasis. Margie Lawson teaches that the words we use and how we put those words on the page helps build emotion.

2. ADD SPECIFIC DETAILS TO BUILD EMOTION IN THE READER: Specific details—descriptions, senses, memories—bring characters alive. Don’t give readers some vague, colorless version of a person. Characters are shaped by their pasts, by their environment, by how they are or were treated. You can build any emotion by using details that reveal how the character sees his world.

From Courting Miss Adelaide:

“She’d been eight, when her mother, sick with influenza, sent Adelaide to stay with Winifred Cook’s family. Disorder reigned in the Cook household, but Winnie’s parents tucked the children into bed with a prayer and a kiss. What a revelation to discover not all children lived in a neat but silent house.

For weeks after returning home, Adelaide’s skin ached to be touched.
She’d tried to keep the warm feeling by stroking her arms and hugging herself, but it hadn't been the same.”

could have had Adelaide just think or say that her mother never touched or rarely talked to her. Instead I used details from her past to let readers see the emotional deprivation of her childhood.

From Courting Miss Adelaide:

“Adelaide stepped inside, but didn't dust the counter, didn't wash the windowpane. Instead, she stood transfixed, watching Charles’s muscles as he pushed that broom like a madman.

A desirable, intelligent man cared enough about her to worry, to take a burden from her shoulders.
Like a husband would.

The thought took her breath away, zinging hope through her, hope for a husband, and hope for children. She shoved it down. She had no claim to Charles, no need of a man. She took care of herself. And if God willed, she could take care of a child, too.
But oh, for a moment, she wanted to believe in the fantasy.”

Make them cry
I list what Adelaide didn't do to show her emotional state. I italicized one thought, the stunning thought, for emphasis. Through her introspection, readers see the core issues for Adelaide. When writers show how the character feels with tight, strong lines, the reader understands and cares.

4. USE ACTIONS TO CONVEY EMOTION THAT TUGS AT READERS: Study movies or people watch to learn what actions convey which emotion. Check out Marilyn Kelly’s book, Eleven Senses, Who Knew? if you need help.

In this passage from Courting Miss Adelaide, Adelaide is talking to frightened seven-year-old Emma at the breakfast table:

““Tell me, honey, why?” Adelaide continued massaging Emma’s back, and waited, every muscle in her body as tense as the small ones under her fingers.

Emma’s mouth tightened. She picked up her spoon and began shoveling the oatmeal into her mouth, avoiding the question.”

I do a little telling here…avoiding the question…to show that Adelaide understands Emma is hiding something, adding to Adelaide’s alarm and motivating her next action in the story.

5. HEIGHTEN EMOTION THROUGH DIALOGUE: Use not only what the character says and how they say it, but also what the character doesn't say. Dialogue furthers the plot and develops characterization, but also is a great tool for an emotional read.

From Courting Miss Adelaide:

““I remember how the hair on my neck would rise, how my gut would knot.” Charles swallowed against the old familiar lump in his throat. “How I wanted to run, but knew running would only make it worse. It was the same for you, wasn’t it?”

Slowly, William nodded.

Charles lifted William’s chin with a palm. “I want you to know something else.”
The boy’s tear-filled eyes, the color of the sea on a cloudy day, met his.
“It wasn’t your doing. None of it was your fault, William. You were never the reason for what was said or done. Never.””

This scene is pivotal for Charles and William’s healing from the childhood abuse they experienced and was emotional to write. If you’re unaffected by your scenes, dig deeper and use dialogue or one of the other tools, or all of them, to stir you and your readers.

6. USE SETTING TO INCREASE EMOTION: Setting can mirror or contrast the character’s mood. Setting can awaken or trigger memories characters doesn't want to face. Setting can build emotion in the reader.

From Courting the Doctor’s Daughter, Love Inspired Historical, May 2009:

“Luke trudged off, striding along the bank, putting distance between him and Mary. A gentle breeze stirred in the scanty collection of leaves still clinging to the trees, fighting their fate. A fate no one could evade.

Along the water’s edge, a fat bullfrog croaked at his approach, then leapt below the surface with a splash, as if unable to abide Luke’s presence. Well, he could hardly abide it either.

Ahead, Doc and the boys gathered their gear. Luke hollered an excuse about getting home, not stopping to look at their catch, all too aware of the crestfallen faces watching him go.

Dusk had fallen, shrouding him in twilight. He walked on, alone, the burden of his mistakes pressing against his lungs until he could barely breathe.”

The way Luke sees his world reveals his sense of failure and self hatred. Decide how your character feels, then use setting, introspection and word choice to up emotion.

7. USE SYMBOLS TO HEIGHTEN EMOTION: Tangibles can stand for abstracts/intangibles like a mood or an idea, and take on special significance. Symbols are probably already in our stories. Emphasize them to add emotional depth.

From Courting the Doctor’s Daughter.

“Turning to go, his gaze swept the enormous breakfront filled with medicine. Something stopped him, made him open the glass door. Finding what he sought, Luke clutched his remedy, then walked to the table, dropped into a chair and set the bottle in front of him. Doc had said the contents of this bottle mattered. Had been part of God’s plan.

Joseph’s suffering had led him to find this medicine, to dedicate his life to healing. God had used this remedy to bring Mary, Doc, and the boys into his life. The liquid caught the light from above, glistened with a shimmer of gold. An unbroken bottle, unblemished, and shining like a new start. Or so he saw it now.”

The remedy/medicine is a symbol I used throughout the book. I used it to create conflict and represent failure early on, but as Luke grows and changes, his remedy stands for hope, a new beginning.


Look for these tools in this excerpt with Charles and Emma, a frightened young orphan, from Courting Miss Adelaide:

“Tears spilled over her pale lower lashes, becoming visible now that they were wet and spiky. If he didn't do something, she’d start bawling. The prospect sent him behind his desk. He jerked open the top drawer and rummaged through it until he found what he sought—a bag of peppermints.
“When I was a youngster,” he began, “on my way home from school, I’d pass Mrs. Wagner’s house. She’d be rocking on her porch, wearing a gray tattered sweater, no matter how hot the day...”

Emma stopped crying, but looked far from cheerful.

“She’d call me up on the porch, ask if I was studying and behaving. Then, she’d reach into the pocket of her sweater and pull out a peppermint.”

Charles took a candy from the bag. Emma’s eyes widened. “She’d say, ‘You’re a smart boy, Charles. Work hard and one day you’ll make something of yourself.’ And, she’d drop the candy into my palm—like this.”

He opened Emma’s small hand and let a peppermint fall into her palm. When the corners of her mouth turned up in a smile, a peculiar feeling shot through him. As it had for him all those years ago, the candy once again worked wonders.

His entire adult life, he’d kept a stash of peppermints around, to remind him of Mrs. Wagner, the one person who had believed in him, who’d given him a desire to improve his lot. The candy still tasted as sweet as her words.”

Charles's dialogue and introspection reveal the significance of peppermints, for him the symbol of hope, and the reminder of the one person who believed in him. The details of this memory and Charles’s compassion for this frightened little girl touched me, the writer, and hopefully touches the reader.

When readers—and editors—are given an emotional read, they can’t toss the book aside. Look for passages in your WIP that reveal how the character feels. If you want to increase the emotion, try using one or all seven of these tools.

I brought apple fritters and fruit to jump start our day. Lunch is a trio of chicken, tuna and ham salad. Perhaps Patti Jo will bring peach pie for dessert.

Share a symbol from a story you’re read or written and what it represented for a chance to win With This Kiss contemporary and historical novella collections.