Friday, May 27, 2016

BEST OF THE ARCHIVES: Stand By Your Man (Redeeming Haunted Heroes or Bad Boys Gone Good)



Julie here, and holy cow, it's hard to believe I had that much hair at one time, but timeand hairmarches on! 
Welcome to the Best of the Archives! I chose this particular article because it talks about spirituality in our writing, a subject that ties in with this week's release of a Heart & Soul, a bundle of five bestselling novels of which Ruth Logan Herne and I are part. 

The theme of Heart & Soul is "Deeply Inspirational, Utterly Romantic" because these five novels possess a particularly deep spiritual depth interwoven with heart-pounding romance, so I hope you will check it out HERE

 It's not often you get FIVE full-blown novels for only $3.99, which is approximately $ .79 per novel, so it's a sweet deal for a limited time only. And trust meI've read four of the five novels, and they are AMAZING! 


Thanks for coming by today, and now on to redeeming our bad boys. Please note that comments are turned off today, but prayers always appreciated! :)


Myra here. Welcome to another Best of the Archives Friday! Since November is almost behind us and the busy Christmas season is beginning (or may be well underway for many!), I'm reprising (and updating) a post from December 2009, when I wrote about how to stay motivated and keep your priorities straight during this often hectic time of year. So grab a cup of hot chocolate, put some carols on the stereo, and sit back and enjoy! - See more at: http://seekerville.blogspot.com/search?q=Best+of+the+Archives#sthash.VbyX2ay4.dpuf

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Move over, Tammy Wynette!!

Okay, I can't sing worth a hoot, but ’ll be the first to admit—I am an AVID Inspirational romance reader/writer with a weakness for bad boys. Not just any bad boys, mind you, but those smoldering, still-waters-run-deep kind of guys that weaken your knees.

You know the type—the tall, brooding men with a questionable past and a penchant for the ladies? Because somehow, someway you just KNOW that underneath all those bad decisions these guys make, there’s a hurting little boy inside, desperate for a love that will save him. And I’m not just talking about the love of a woman, here, although I do like plenty of that in my books as well. Nope, I’m talking about the love of God, that deep and mysterious component that for me personally, ignites the WOW factor in a hero.

To me, there is nothing stronger than a wayward guy gone good. It takes strength of conviction and a lot of humility for a man to bend his knee to God, but when he does, he rises as a tower of strength and manhood, not in his own power, but in God’s. It’s like epoxy—the strength of a man combined with the strength of his Savior, recreating man as he was meant to be—a warrior, a protector, and fiercely devoted to both God and the woman he loves.

Which is why there is ALWAYS some form of a deep spiritual-redemption scene in each of my books for the hero. Why, you ask? Well, it’s my humble opinion that not only does a powerful redemption scene strengthen the hero in your reader’s eyes, but it strengthens and deepens a novel as well, so I encourage you to give it a try if you never have. And honestly, who better to redeem than those stubborn bad boys?

Which is why the heroes in all of my books were, at one time or another, bad boys—womanizers, drinkers, thieves, men driven by lust rather than love. Human beings with a painful past that throughout the course of my books, become human beings with a future of hope.

So … how do I like to stand by my men? Well there’s #NOLIMITS to the ways to do this, but here are a few things I’ve noticed in my redemption scenes that make the hero’s “redemption” more powerful for me personally:

—Redemption scenarios always follow a series of conflicts that slowly strip the hero of his own strength and ability to deal with the problem.

—Redemption scenarios are almost always internal monologue (hero thinking/talking to himself) because somehow for me, the privacy and intimacy between him and God allows the hero to remain strong and retain his pride without exposing his most intimate act of surrender.

— Heroes in redemption scenarios always experience a peace that takes them by surprise.

 — Redemption scenes have to be believable (thank you, Artist Librarian!) or they will have the opposite effect you want, possibly turning the reader away. Tapping into the  emotions of a hero during a life crisis or deep disappointment is one of the best ways to do this, in my opinion, since redemption is such an emotional thing for each of us. Which means it can't happen over the course of a couple of scenes (thank you, Audra!), but needs that thread woven throughout the whole book.
— And one of the few times it's okay to have a hero cry in a book is in a redemption scene when he's alone with God, and frankly as a weepy CCDQ myself (certified caffeinated drama queen), I kind of like to make the heroes cry every now and then, you know? :)

With that in mind, here are scenarios I’ve utilized to implement a redemption/faith message in my own books as well as excerpts for the first three only, in the interest of time. I hope you can feel the power of redemption in each and every one.

Radical Redemption: A bad-boy hero goes from night to day, beginning with an early scene that reflects a lifestyle totally opposite of Christian values: womanizer, drinker, bitterness toward God, etc. A slow breakdown of his resistance throughout the book follows until a mid-point life-jolt scene, finished off with a conversion scene close to the end for a more powerful punch.

—Reluctant Redemption: A hero is forced into redemption against his will via a twist of the arm by someone or something he loves/respects, not really embracing it fully until he begins to see the positive changes in his life.

—Reawakened Redemption:  A hero who was raised with faith but just goes through the motions for his family’s sake, no real heart commitment until the light goes on following a series of conflicts and counsel from someone he loves/respects.

—Renewed RedemptioN: A reformed bad-boy hero who has embraced faith, but hasn’t given it his all until a mid-point scene rocks him, which deepens his faith when he is counseled by someone he loves and respects.

DESPERATE REDEMPTION: This is a hero whose fears drive him to push past a surface or shallow commitment to faith in order to battle something or someone, eventually deepening his faith for the right reasons.


1.)   RADICAL REMDEMPTION:

You know, I’ve never been one of these timid, take-it-easy type of gals when it comes to romance. For me, it’s all or nothing with extremes that I love to reflect in my stories. As a CCDQ, I want lots of drama and angst because there are few things more powerful to me in romance novels than the redemption of a bad boy.

Case in point: Collin McGuire in A Passion Most Pure. I knew it was risky having a player for a hero, a womanizer who used women for his own gratification, and believe me, I got my fair share of 1-star reviews over having that kind of hero in a Christian novel. But I gotta tell you that Collin’s dramatic redemption not only spoke to me, but to my readers as well who voted Collin their #1 favorite of all my heroes. Here are clips showing the before, during, and after of Collin’s redemption, and you tell me if seeing a bad boy fall to his knees before God isn’t one of the most powerful turnarounds you can put in a Inspy romance novel.

COLLIN’S ORIGINAL BAD BOY IN THE BEGINNING:
        He heard her soft moan as she pressed against him, and for the briefest moment, he froze. In his mind's eye, it wasn't Bree’s lips he tasted, but Faith O’Connor’s. An unfamiliar ache stabbed within. Where the blazes did that come from? One brief encounter and some woman had him thinking about her? Wanting her? Well, it wasn’t going to happen. He would be the one who decided whom he wanted and whom he didn’t. As long as he had a breath in his body, no woman would control his thoughts, and certainly, no woman would possess him.
        The ache was replaced by an icy anger that stoked a cold resolve within. He wanted to push Bree away, to tell her that her kiss produced nothing but contempt. That neither she nor any woman, least of all Faith O'Connor, would ever own him. But he didn't. Instead, he jerked her close, his lips returning her passion with a hard fervor. And in the heat of their embrace, in the smoky midst of Brannigan’s Pub, he quickly seared the memory of Faith O'Connor from his thoughts.

COLLIN’S COME-TO-JESUS MEETING 2/3 OF THE WAY THROUGH THE BOOK WHEN HE’S DRUNK IN A BAR:
        "Collin, it doesn't have to be like this. You don't have to let this control you anymore. This is not the way to get the love you want. Faith knew that, and you can too. Trust me, Collin. I wouldn't steer you wrong, and neither would she. Faith loves you, and the only thing standing in the way is this––your rebellion against God and everything He represents. He wants you, Collin. He wants you to pursue Him instead of your lust."
        Collin might have been asleep, for all Brady knew, now lifeless and still, his head buried in his arms. But as Brady finished speaking, Collin’s body stiffened, and when his head lurched up, Brady barely recognized him. His face, blotched and swollen, was pinched in shock as his bloodshot eyes fixed on Brady’s. "What did you say?" he whispered.
        Brady blinked.  "I said it doesn't have to be like this …"
        "No, the last thing––what was the last thing you said?" Collin's eyes were crazed.
        Brady thought about it. "I said He wants you, Collin. He wants you to pursue Him instead of your lust."
        Brady watched as this grown man trembled before him. He had never seen Collin like this. For that matter, he had never seen anyone like this before, and he sensed something spiritual was going on. 
        Collin's fingers shook as he ripped them through his hair. He seemed almost fearful as his eyes locked on Brady's. "That's just what she said, Brady, word-for-word, the first time she talked to me about God. How could you know that? How could you?"
        Brady exhaled slowly, a shiver traveling his spine. He smiled. "I didn't, Collin, but God did. What I want to know is, what's it going to take to get your attention?"
        Collin sat there in a daze and shook his head. "I don't know," he said in a hushed tone, "but this is a devil of a start.”

COLLIN’S EVENTUAL REDEMPTION DURING THE WAR:
        Collin vaulted off his bunk and bent in to where Brady slept, reaching for the Bible he always kept by his side. He clutched it to his chest and hurried outside the billet, the moonlight cutting shadows around him like the noon of day. His fingers fumbled the pages in a rush, seeking the Scripture he had read before his last shift in the trenches. His hand stilled as he found it, and for the first time, he understood its meaning with frightening clarity.
        To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
        The verse pierced his heart. Overwhelming grief brought him to his knees in the dirt, not caring who might see or who might hear. He had spent his whole life chasing after the wind, and it had never yielded anything more than emptiness that blustered cold in his heart. No more, he thought, it was over. The life he led was over, and with God’s help, a new one would begin. He had allowed the prayers of Faith and Brady to go forth on his behalf, but had never uttered them himself. And looking up into the heavens, he cried out to their god, and in the instant it took for him to speak, that God became his. Like the shaft of moonlight washing over him, a holy peace flooded his soul. For the first time, he understood the fervor he’d seen in Faith, the peace he saw in Brady, and he was filled with awe. Every conversation he’d ever had with Brady convinced him he would never be happy until the desire of his heart was one with God’s, just like Faith had said. Only, his heart had heard it too late to have her. 
        Slowly Collin rose from the dirt, astounded at the serenity he felt. He breathed in deeply to fill his lungs with the cool, night air. He couldn’t have her, but she would always be a part of him. He knew to the depth of his soul that it had been her prayers that had saved him. It was a debt for which he would always be grateful. He wished her well.
        No, he thought, there was no wishing to it. He would pray that God would bless her with the marriage she deserved. He owed her that.
        Quietly, he entered the billet and returned the Bible to Brady’s side. Crawling into his own bunk, he closed his eyes and slept, finally, the slumber of a man with peace in his heart.

2.) RELUCTANT REDEMPTION:

In Love at Any Cost, Jamie MacKenna is a handsome pauper looking to marry well in order to provide a surgery for his crippled sister. When his sister refuses to have a surgery bought by his engagement to a wealthy socialite he doesn’t love, he’s forced to surrender to God against his will.

JAMIE’S ORIGINAL BAD BOY BITTERNESS:
        Bram shook his head, easing his car past a peddler on a bicycle. “You’re something else, MacKenna, you know that? One of the nicest guys I know, hard-working, smart, give the shirt off your back. Yet under that heart of gold is a fortune hunter with the glint of gold in his eyes. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, you know?”
        “Sure it does.” Jamie grinned. And why not? His dreams were worth it—from his hopes to provide a surgery that could heal his sister someday, to his drive to be the youngest senator from the state of California and effect change in the Barbary Coast. He gave Bram a wink. “May as well fall in love with a rich girl as a poor one.”
        “So you say,” Bram said with a shift of gears, “but it’s been my experience that life doesn’t always comply. You fall in love with whom God chooses, Mac, and sometimes a fortune doesn’t come along with it.”
        Jamie propped hands to the back of his neck, absently staring down Market Street with a stiff smile. “See, Bram, that’s where you make your mistake—leaving everything up to some deity who may or may not exist. Well, not me. I’ve gotten this far on my own ingenuity, so I see no reason to depend on some fairy tale for the most important thing in my life—” his smile veered into a scowl—“marrying well so I can take care of my family because God hasn’t had the time.”

JAMIE’S RELUCTANT REDEMPTION:
        Jess glanced up with a smile so full of love, it thickened the walls of Jamie’s throat. “Promise me, Jammy,” his sister said, using the nickname she’d given him when she was two, “that you’ll lay your will down for God’s so he can bring us the miracle we all so desperately need.”
        Pulse staggering, he stared at her, his breathing shallow. Lay his will down for God’s? Pry his fingers apart and let go, just like that? Trust a God he’d never trusted at all, just on a whim? His eyelids weighted closed. No, not on a whim. On a request from the sister he loved, the mother he cherished, and the friend he respected. The sting of tears burned in his nose when Cassie’s image came to mind. And the woman I want.
        His breath caught at the twine of Jess’s fingers in his. “Let go, Jamie, and let God be God,” she whispered, the trace of an imp in her smile. “He does it so much better than you.”
        Let God be God. He closed his eyes and in the whoosh of an exhale, he felt his will crack, a fissure of hope no bigger than a thread in a smothering shroud of disbelief. Relinquishing a weary sigh, he finally nodded, Bram’s words echoing in his mind. “Faith can move mountains, you know—be they granite . . . or pigheaded pride.”
        His mouth quirked despite tears burning his lids. Pride he had plenty of, but faith? He drew in a shaky breath and released it, fluttering her ebony ringlets as he pressed a kiss to his sister’s head. “Okay, Jess,” he said, finally willing to let go—not the precious sister he cherished in his arms—but the pride that separated him from her God.
        Delicate arms quickly swallowed him whole.
        Her God, yes. His heart skipped a fractured beat. And now, apparently—his.

3.) REAWAKENED REDEMPTION:

In A love Surrendered, Steven O’Connor is the bad boy turned good for the wrong reasons, out of guilt rather than faith. He goes to church with his family because it’s expected, but his faith is in name only. Until conflict coupled with a series of talks throughout the book from people he loves and respects finally bring him to his knees.

        “God will help you do the right thing.”
        His father’s parting words opened his eyes, prompting him to search the heavens. “Will you, God? Will you help me to do the right thing—not just with Annie, but with the rest of my life? I . . .” His whisper broke in the dark, hoarse and cracked and so desperate for change that emotion choked the words in his throat. “I-I’ve made so many mistakes . . . with my father, with Maggie, with You. I’m begging You . . .” A heave shuddered his body. “Forgive me, please . . . and change me like you changed my father . . . and help me to become the man you want me to be.”
        The steady beat of the rain drummed on the roof while the cold air chilled his body, the cool and damp of impending winter heavy in the air. And yet somehow, Steven felt warm, his breathing shallow as his eyes scanned the sky. There were no bolts of lightning to illuminate the dark nor peals of thunder to herald anything new. Only the still small voice of God in his heart, stirring a flame of hope that brought peace to his soul.
He leadeth me beside the still waters . . . He restoreth my soul . . . He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness . . .
        “I don’t understand,” Steven rasped, eyes brimming with tears. “Why do you even care?
        Because you are mine, the thought came, and Steven bowed his head and wept.
        Because for the first time in his life, he finally understood.
        He was.

Thanks for coming by today, and now on to redeeming our bad boys. Please note that comments are turned off today, but prayers always appreciated! :)

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Comments are turned off for the day... but prayers are always welcome! God bless you! - See more at: http://seekerville.blogspot.com/search?q=Best+of+the+Archives#sthash.VbyX2ay4.dpuf



Myra here. Welcome to another Best of the Archives Friday! Since November is almost behind us and the busy Christmas season is beginning (or may be well underway for many!), I'm reprising (and updating) a post from December 2009, when I wrote about how to stay motivated and keep your priorities straight during this often hectic time of year. So grab a cup of hot chocolate, put some carols on the stereo, and sit back and enjoy! - See more at: http://seekerville.blogspot.com/search?q=Best+of+the+Archives#sthash.VbyX2ay4.dpuf

HEART & SOUL ON SALE NOW FOR A LIMITED TIME  -- ONLY $3.99!! HERE'S THE LINK:





ABOUT JULIE:  Julie Lessman, award-winning author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, and Heart of San Francisco series, was named American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and voted #1 Romance Author of the year in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards. Julie has garnered 17 RWA and other awards and made Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction. Her latest novel, Surprised by Love, appeared on Family Fiction magazine’s list of Top Ten Novels of 2014. Her indie book A Light in the Window is an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Readers' Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Award winner.

You can contact Julie and read excerpts from her books at www.julielessman.com, or through Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or Pinterest, as well as sign up for her newsletter. Check out Julie’s group blog, The Seekers, Writers Digest 2013 and 2014 “Best 101 Websites for Writers,” and Julie’s own personal blog, Journal Jots, voted blog of the month in the Readers’ Choice poll of Book Fun Magazine.






Thursday, May 26, 2016

Winning the Creative War

By Guest Connie Mann

In my head, I envision myself as this ethereal creative creature that floats through the mist, scooping up ideas in my pretty basket. The moment I alight at my desk, beautiful, perfect words pour from my fingertips like rain as a story magically appears.

Then I wake up and squint at the mess on my desk. I scowl at the big red due date on my wall calendar, slurp more coffee and panic.

For most writers I know, creating new characters, building a story world, and envisioning a juicy plot is the fun stuff of writing, the misty creative part. I can talk stories with you all day long and enjoy every minute of it. But tell me to spend the day at my desk writing? Hmm, I’m pretty sure I need to clean out the guestroom closet—right now. Can’t go another day without new curtains in the living room, either. And really, what was I thinking buying those socks?

In his book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield says, “It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.”

Pressfield calls what keeps us from doing it “resistance.” I call it a big sweaty battle against inertia. And fear. And insecurity. Whatever name you give it, the moment we set out to do something creative, a force pushes back just as hard to keep us from it. How do we break through? How do we get our stories down on paper?

Here are my best strategies. They may not work for you, but I hope you’ll give them a try.

1—Write early.

I know, I can hear some of you groaning from here. Last fall I sat between two writer friends at lunch and realized both of them had full-time jobs and families and were getting up at 4:00 am (yes, you read that right) every morning to get their writing done. I decided if I was going to take my writing to the next level, I needed to do the same. The next morning, I set my alarm so early I wasn’t sure God was up yet and got to work.

I don’t like 4:00 am much, and realized I can’t keep it up for long, but I can do 5:00 or 5:30. So I’ve been gradually resetting my internal clock to get up at that time, gulp coffee and head to my computer.

The added benefit: my internal editor isn’t awake then, either. Apparently that naggy voice in my head that tells me this is clearly not misty creative material doesn’t get up early. I can simply pour the story out on the page and tell my internal editor she can gripe at me later.




2—Make deadlines your friends

I like to think I’m organized and disciplined and all those lovely things that sound so good, but the reality is that without a deadline, nothing happens. Nada. If I have all day to write 1,000 words, they will get dumped on the page exactly 30 minutes before hubby gets home from work to ask if I got everything done.

If that sounds familiar, try word sprints with friends, set a timer, or whatever makes that deadline panic work for you.

When I write before my day job, I can’t weasel out. The deadline is real and I only have so much time. I am a boat captain (just like the heroine of Tangled Lies) and work out in the sun most days, so by the time I get home from work, my brain is mush. I’ve learned that if my writing doesn’t get done first, it won’t happen that day at all.


Connie Mann at work!

3 – Set small goals

It sounds completely counterintuitive, but it works. I’m an optimist, which means I’m always pretty sure I can write a novel in a month; six weeks, tops. Then reality slaps me upside the head and I notice my gut is clenched and my palms are sweating because I’ve set an impossible goal. I just can’t do it.

I’ve learned to do the opposite and set small goals. Instead of 10,000 words in one day, I’ll tell myself I just need to write 500 words in this one hour. That’s it. No more. Usually, when the timer rings, I’ve written far more than 500 words. But even on days I don’t, I’ve met my goal so I can feel good about my progress.

4 – Keep a record

Speaking of progress, several years ago, I discovered the beauty of a yearly wall calendar, the kind that lets you see the whole year at once. That’s been a huge help in planning projects, setting reasonable goals, and meeting deadlines. But it also lets me record the successes--the days I met my goal, submitted a project and especially those days when good news arrives--like the day I sold Tangled Lies!

Writing is often solitary and kudos are few and far between, so this visual reminder of my progress throughout the year helps me stay the course. And for seasons when life interferes—as it inevitably does—it helps me cut myself some slack when progress is measured in teeny tiny steps.

That’s my battle plan for winning the creative war. It starts with the ‘butt in chair’ adage--and prayer, too--but without goals, deadlines and a set time of day, I never get close to my ‘misty creative’ ideal.

What about you? How do you get the story down on paper? What strategies do you use?

Leave a comment letting us know you’d like to be entered to win a print copy (U.S. address) of the newly-released Tangled Lies, from Waterfall Press. Available now!


Tangled Lies
Some Family secrets are best left buried at sea…

Orphaned as a child in Russia, boat captain Sasha Petrov has spent most of her life adrift, anchored only by her loving foster family. So when they beg her to return to the family marina in Safe Harbor, Florida, for Mama’s sixtieth birthday, Sasha complies, hoping to put the past behind her. But Mama has other plans: she wants her three foster daughters to find Tony, the biological son who disappeared twenty years earlier.

Sasha agrees to try, but that’s easier said than done when bad boy Jesse Claybourne shows up, reigniting an old attraction. Back in Safe Harbor on a quest of his own, Jesse gets tangled up in Sasha’s search, and soon the two are close to uncovering an old town secret that some will stop at nothing to protect.

When Jesse is violently beaten and Sasha’s dog is poisoned, they realize the past is hiding something more sinister than they ever imagined. Can they uncover the truth without destroying Sasha’s family and breaking each other’s hearts, or are they sailing against the wind?

Bio
Connie Mann is a licensed boat captain and the author of romantic suspense novels Tangled Lies (May 2016) Angel Falls and Trapped! When she’s not dreaming up plotlines, you’ll find “Captain Connie” on Central Florida’s waterways, introducing boats full of schoolchildren to their first alligator. She is also passionate about helping women and children in developing countries follow their dreams and break the poverty cycle. You can visit Connie online at www.conniemann.com.