Friday, August 26, 2016

Best of the Archives: Pam's Writing World

Now doesn't that look comfy?

Yep, that's my writing spot. Actually, it's where I'm sitting right this minute as I type this blog post. It's right in the middle of my den with the rest of the family.
Yes, I do need a quiet spot to write more and more these days. This past summer my husband and sons were in and out of the house more than usual, so I spent several days writing in one of the Sunday school rooms at the church at the end of my driveway. It's nice and quiet there and I get a lot of writing done.
So, that's the where I write.
When is whenever I can, since I have a full-time job, and work part-time as the ACFW Conference Treasurer..I suppose the next question is how do I write. Okay, this is the fun part!

My ideas come from everywhere. A song on the radio, a sermon, a picture. I log them into an idea file, and let them percolate. Sometimes I just have a title. That's how Terms of Indenturement, my historical romance that just won the ACFW Genesis contest and The Maggie came to be. I had the title for years and played with several ideas until the current idea set in 1790’s Natchez clicked into place. [Update: Terms of Indenturement is now a 3-book series with the first book tentatively set for release in the summer of 2017.]
Once I read a contemporary romance where the heroine ended up with a pile of stolen loot and chose not to return it. What would a Christian have done under those circumstances? Especially a woman in 1880’s with nowhere to go and no way of supporting herself, her elderly grandmother and her blind sister. That jumpstarted the idea that became Marrying Mariah, [Update: Published as Claiming Mariah, Feb 2014] winner of a host of contests, including RWA’s Golden Heart.
Moving from the kernel of an idea to a book.
I have various methods of getting to the next stage of writing the book, but my favorite is to open a spreadsheet and start typing scene ideas. I just keep brainstorming ideas until my head spins. I’ll also run the basic idea by my critique partners and the Seekers and let them throw stuff at me. Anything goes at this point. It all goes into the spreadsheet, one scene idea per cell. My Terms of Indenturement plot spreadsheet has 176 scene ideas. Some are already obsolete, but I never delete anything. Who knows what direction the story might take before it’s done, or even after it’s finished in the rewrite?
Once I have a pretty good handle on the overall plot, I write the first few scenes, tweak, work on those scenes, fine-tuning my spreadsheet to match the live document that’s written in Word, contrary to rumors that I write in a spreadsheet.

I don’t.
But I have seriously considered it! But in the long run, it just wasn’t feasible to get 1200-1500 words in a spreadsheet cell. This spreadsheet is a living document. It grows and changes as the story does.

I’ve also found that I can plot out about 1/3 of the scenes and have to write those before I can plot out the next section. That’s not to say that I don’t have an overall idea of the major plot points, and a glimmer of the ending scenes, but just that I don’t know every little scene in detail until I get to that Act in the story.
Oh, and another cool thing that I’m doing this time around is concentrating on ACTS. I chose the 3 act structure as described in James Scott Bell’s book Plot and Structure.

Stay with me now.
Assume your novel has 360 pages, 32 chapters, give or take a few.

Act I is the first 8 chapters / 90 pages
Act II the next 16 chapters / 180 pages
Act III the final 8 chapters / 90 pages
And around every 45 pages or so, or every 4 chapters you have a major TWIST or EXPLOSION of some kind.
Okay, okay, Mary has an explosion in every paragraph, and we need excitement and hooks to keep the reader turning the page at the end of every scene, like Julie talked about in her Seekerville post, The Tease. But I’m talking about something that really throws the reader for a loop, a curve the reader didn’t see coming, something totally out of left field. It could be something physical as in your heroine is kidnapped, or it could be where the hero finds out that he’s not the street rat he thought he was, but the long-lost son of a king, or where a major plot point is revealed, like the hero admitting that he’s in love with the heroine even if it’s just to himself.
So, that’s the method to my madness, ladies and gents. It’s not smooth, and it’s not consistent, but it works. Sometimes it’s like catching and pulling the eye teeth of a mountain lion…without anesthesia, but so far I’ve finally wrestled that cat to the ground.
And you can too!
Here is the ONE resource I must have handy at all times. The Synonym Finder, J. I. Rodale.

One last picture of me actually WORKING in my writing space. You'll never know how many pics my son had to snap before we got one I was willing to share with the world! 

This post first appeared in Seekerville 10/8/2010, when Pam was still eligible for the Genesis. What a fun walk down memory lane. Comments are closed today so we can catch up on our writing and reading.  

The California Gold Rush Romance Collection: 9 Stories of Finding Treasures Worth More than Gold 

Rush to California after the 1848 gold discovery alongside thousands of hopeful men and women. Meet news reporters, English gentry, miners, morticians, marriage brokers, bankers, fugitives, preachers, imposters, trail guides, map makers, cooks, missionaries, town builders, soiled doves, and more people who take advantage of the opportunities to make their fortunes in places where the population swelled overnight. But can faith and romance transform lives where gold is king?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Character Healing

I didn’t know what to title this blog because the five stages of grief sound so depressing. A romance novel is uplifting, at least at the end, and nothing at all like grief. We read a love story for the joy of ‘happily ever after.’ But grief is a part of life and sometimes our characters suffer from it either before the story begins or during the story itself.

If we’re writing women’s fiction or a literary novel, then emotional pain and angst aren’t particularly unusual. But in a love story, the hero or heroine may have lived through a terrible romantic experience in the past. It could be a break up, a death, or a divorce, though divorce isn’t normally found in Christian fiction.

I always had the impression that the bitterness, sadness, or anger of a great emotional upheaval should take place in the character’s past and not impact the person in the present, at least not to a great degree. The hero or heroine will be influenced by this former relationship, but is now free to love again. The experience might have made her wary of someone hurting her yet again, but it’s given her some wisdom and depth of character. So when the right man comes around she’ll be emotionally ready, even though it won’t happen immediately. While the pain may linger, she’s no longer ‘crippled’ by it. By the end of a romance, ‘love conquers all.’

It’s important that the hero and heroine have some internal obstacles keeping them apart. Sometimes it’s a romance gone terribly wrong. In historicals, it’s often the death of a loved one that’s quite traumatic to the character.

A story needs both internal and external conflicts to make it the best it can be. A conflict relating to a past romance gives it an excellent backstory which helps the reader understand the hero or heroine.

In my opinion, a problem between the main character and a parent or sibling is weaker than a romantic problem experienced in the past. It’ll have a direct lingering effect that will impact the characters in present love story.

But I wonder what would a story be like if either the hero or heroine was still in the middle of recovering from their grief when a new, potential love came into their live. Could one help the other to recover from the pain that keeps him from moving forward into a new, happy life? Or does the main character have to already be past every one of the five stages of grief first? Tell us what you think.

Teddy Roosevelt is an interesting example. A baby girl was born to Teddy and his beloved young wife, Alice Lee Roosevelt. Two days later Alice died from undiagnosed kidney failure which had been masked by her pregnancy. He said, “The light has gone out of my life.” That same day his mother, Mittie, died from typhoid fever in the same house.

Distressed and grieving, Teddy left the baby in the care of his sister for three years! He focused on his work to forget his awful loss. He rarely spoke about Alice and didn’t mention her or his second wife, Edith, in his autobiography.

He married Edith a few years after Alice’s untimely death. They had five children but he worried he’d lose her in childbirth, too. He didn’t. She outlived him.

It’s a fascinating story to me because obviously Teddy recovered enough to remarry, continue on with his life and even become President. The pain never completely left him. But after his initial shock and grief subsided, he married again and accepted the risk of another tragedy. I think he was brave not to wallow forever in his misery. He didn’t wait until he’d fully recovered to marry Edith. If he had, he’d probably have been single for the rest of his life because he never completely overcame his loss of Alice.

Our story people who suffer a big loss also go through the five stages of grief just as real people do. Some go through fewer stagers, some go through more.

Life makes no sense, we feel numb. It’s God’s way of letting in only as much as reality as we can handle at the beginning. We’re shocked and in denial. As we begin to accept the loss, we are starting the healing process. But all our feelings come to the surface.

We might feel anger toward the doctors, family, friends, the loved one herself and even God. Underneath the anger is the pain of feeling deserted and abandoned. It may be anger at the situation and not the person.

Before a loss we may bargain with God to heal our loved one. We may promise God to be a better person or help the poor etc. We want our old life back. Sometimes we think we could’ve done something differently and saved the person we love. We remain in the past as we try to rid ourselves of the pain.

This is a normal state after a great loss, not a true mental health issue. Our grief is deep and it feels as if it will last forever. We will be sad, we may withdraw from family and friends, or think life isn’t worth living. But this is just part of the healing process.

We finally accept what we can’t change. We don’t want to accept our loss, but we don’t have a choice. This is about accepting reality. We learn to live with the new normal even when we don’t like it. We can even feel happiness once in a while. We have to change, grow and evolve. We start to live again, but first we have to give ourselves time to grieve.

I think one of our main story people can be at any stage when he meets someone he’s attracted to. Personally, the Depression Stage or the Acceptance Stage seem plausible to me. The hero needs her to help him work through his loss and his grief and then they can begin their own love relationship. By the end of the story, the hero heals with the help of his new love.

At what stage would you start the story if your heroine is still grieving?

I’m giving away a $15.00 gift certificate to Starbucks. Please leave your e-mail address.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Rim-To-Rim: 7 Tips for Crossing the Book Canyon from Page One to The End

As much as I love the Grand Canyon, I’ve never attempted to cross it – a grueling 25-mile hike that’s a 2-3 day test of mental, physical and spiritual endurance. But I have several intrepid friends who’ve tackled the challenge and triumphed.
The Rim-To-Rim.
When I type the opening line of a new book, a deep divide seemingly stretches from that point to The End. As with the Grand Canyon’s Rim-To-Rim, finishing a book for many of us isn’t an easy journey. There are no guarantees we’ll reach the other side. But like Canyon hikers, writers who have a strong enough dream are willing to risk the attempt.

TIP #1: Set a Target. Hikers on the South Rim will never hit the North if they wander off in a southerly direction. As a writer, give thought to the readership of your book, the expectations of the genre, the projected word count, and the publisher guidelines. Determining this in advance saves time and heartache later. Establish a deadline.
TIP #2: Prepare. Rim-to-Rim hikers invest time and effort in preparations long before their feet hit the trail--obtaining permits and advice from those who’ve gone before them, acquiring gear and supplies, and conditioning their bodies for endurance. Crossing the Canyon isn’t an impulsively taken walk in the park.
Likewise, regardless of whether you’re a story plotter, a seat-of-the-pantser or a planster, do yourself a favor. Think through a book-length goal, motivation and conflict to drive your main characters. Know how they’ll change. Know, too, the primary plot turning points and the black moment and resolution you’re shooting for. What’s the core of the story--the intended takeaway?

TIP #3:  Buddy Up. While there are no guarantees a hiker partnering with others will make it to the other side, there’s safety in numbers. Those who team up for mutual encouragement and to look out for each other’s welfare stand a much higher chance of reaching the opposite Rim.
As a writer, consider attending a conference, joining a writers group or finding a compatible critique partner. Or get actively involved in an on-line community (like Seekerville!) where you can receive guidance and support (and an occasional kick in the seat of the pants).
TIP #4: Pace Yourself. While taking in majestic surroundings is a good thing, with too many distracting side excursions hikers of the Canyon will find themselves short on water and food, losing energy, motivation and momentum. Not a good place to be. They must keep moving steadily in the direction of the intended Rim.
As a writer, establish a daily or weekly word count goal. There will be times when you want to quit, when you want to chase off after new “exciting” ideas. But if you develop a pattern of doing that, you can expect to have a lot of unfinished manuscripts under your bed. If you don’t meet the word count goal, don’t beat yourself up. Dust yourself off and get moving forward again.

TIP #5: Don’t Psych Yourself Out. As Rim-to-Rimmers can attest, if you tell yourself you can’t do it, the odds are against you right from the start. Negative self-talk can’t rule thinking patterns once they’ve started into the Canyon. They can’t call a cab if they get hot or sunburned or blisters or belatedly discover they bit off more than they can chew. Unless it’s a true medical emergency requiring air evacuation, the expectation is that you walked in and you will walk out.
As a writer, keep the inner critic at bay. Don’t tell yourself negative things that you wouldn’t dream of telling another aspiring writer. Things like “you’ll never finish a book, this story is no good, you’re no good.” Every day remind yourself “I can do this.” Or even better yet: “Together God and I can do this!”
TIP #6 Track Your Progress. Canyon hikers carry a map to recognize points along the trail so they can track how far they’ve gone and how far they still have to go. Do they need to conserve food or water? Pick up the pace? Or are they right on target?
As a writer, track your progress. For years I’ve kept a simple Excel spreadsheet to record daily word count and calculate the running total, as well as a brief “why” statement if I didn’t meet my goal (e.g., “prepping Seekerville blogpost,” “synopsis work,” “family outing”). Or maybe you’d prefer to have a pocket calendar or one on your wall where you can jot word count.

TIP #7 Don’t Get Too Close to the Edge. Rare is the year when at least one person doesn’t plummet to their death in the Grand Canyon. There have been two or three in 2016 alone. Both above and below the Rim, hikers need to be acutely aware of their surroundings, know their limits and not take dangerous shortcuts when others are passing by them at a faster clip. They need to remain balanced and focused on their own journey, not distracted by someone else’s.
Promise yourself not to compare your finish-the-book journey to that of others. It’s wise to challenge yourself--but realize that unless you’re Nora Roberts, there will always be speedier writers than you. Better writers. Writers to whom full-blown ideas seem to fall out of the sky at their feet while you struggle to come up with a single decent one. Make a commitment not to turn back or get too close to the self-sabotaging envy edge.
BONUS TIP:  As I’ve so often pointed out, baby steps add up! ENJOY the journey. Don’t let the distance to The End intimidate you. It all comes down to taking that first step--and one persevering step after another. Periodically give yourself a pat on the back to celebrate how far you’ve come. Then take another step. You can do it!

Does a yawning canyon seem to stand between you and The End of that dreamed-of book? Where are you right now--on the Rim wistfully looking across the canyon? Trudging through its depths or on the upward climb where temperatures are reaching 120 degrees and you’re running out of water, knowing you have as far to go now as you’ve already come? Or maybe you’re close to triumphantly planting your feet at your final destination. Which of these tips is most difficult for you to follow? And which is the tip you most need at this point in your journey?
If you’d like to be entered in a drawing for a Kindle copy of James Scott Bell’s “The Mental Game of Writing,” mention it in the comment section, then check the Weekend Edition to see if you’re a winner!
GLYNNA KAYE treasures memories of growing up in small Midwestern towns--and vacations spent with the Texan side of the family. She traces her love of storytelling to the times a houseful of great-aunts and great-uncles gathered with her grandma to share candid, heartwarming, poignant and often humorous tales of their youth and young adulthood. Her Love Inspired books--Pine Country Cowboy and High Country Holiday--won first and second place, respectively, in the 2015 RWA Faith, Hope & Love Inspirational Reader’s Choice Awards. Her November 2016 release, The Pastor’s Christmas Courtship, is available for pre-order now (click here)!
Jodi Thorpe’s childhood vacation cabin seems the perfect place for her to heal her broken heart…and avoid Christmas cheer. After twelve years, nothing in Hunter Ridge has changed--except Garrett McCrae. The bad boy who was once her secret crush is now the town minister. And Garrett won’t let her miss out on all the hope and joy the holiday brings.  With every day he’s drawn to the vulnerable woman Jodi’s become, even as he’s about to leave for a mission halfway around the world.  But as they grow closer, their plans begin to change. Can Garrett make it a season to remember, with a love they can’t forget?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


Sandra here and I'm recovering from a panic attack. I went to order more Millstone Chocolate Velvet coffee and am told they no longer make it.


Withdrawal is not pretty.

However, I did find Folder's Chocolate Mocha Swirl which is close in taste and half the price.


So please join me for a cup of Mocha Swirl and let's talk about the small rewards we give ourselves when we accomplish our goals in this crazy writing business.

Bigstock photo - one of my favorites

Writing is not a “normal” job.

It can be an extremely rewarding job but like most other jobs, it does have its pitfalls.

What are some of the pitfalls to watch out for?

·      Motivation is one of the biggest pitfalls. Writing is not easy. Most writers have set their own times and goals, so it is up to them to accomplish those goals. It isn’t like you go to a job from 9-5 and then get a paycheck at the end of the week. You have to sit yourself in front of that computer whether you feel like it or not and whether you have been paid or not.

·      Writing from home can be a pitfall when others don’t perceive your writing as a “job”.  This can be a big problem if your family and/or friends think you are “free” to do things with and for them because you are home. Yes, you do have flexibility and can dictate your own hours, but it is very easy to get so over-committed that you end up with limited hours to write.

·      Writing is speculative. You can write faithfully, but often you don’t see an immediate reward. You can have ten completed manuscripts, but if they aren’t published, they are not bringing you a paycheck. This can discourage a writer to the point that they give up and stop writing.

bigstock photo

We could go on and on with other pitfalls and you might want to bring them up in the comments, but I really want to focus this post on one of the ways to overcome the pitfalls and find the rewards and positive aspects of writing.

Every one of the pitfalls also entails the rewards. 

·      Motivation. A person called to writing is usually highly motivated. If you are writing, you probably aren’t doing it because you “have to”.  You are writing because you want to.  And you probably LOVE it in spite of the difficulty and hard work.

·      Writing from home can also be a blessing. You are free to pick your own hours. If you’re a night person, you can stay up as late as you want and write. If you’re a morning person you can get up early and pound those keys. If you are busy with family and other obligations, you can steal time during those moments that appear and write away. This flexibility is wonderful.

·      Yes, writing is speculative, but when you finally get the “call” and you have those ten manuscripts ready to go, you have won the jackpot. Or maybe you take those ten manuscripts and publish them yourself. You have accomplished your goals and if they sell well, you have achieved the reward.

Now these rewards aren’t forthcoming on a regular basis like a weekly paycheck. And lets face it. We are human and we need to be rewarded for our efforts or we are inclined in our culture to devalue those efforts. Therefore, I think it is important to find ways to reward yourself so that you are inspired to continue to write.

Most jobs have the reward of a paycheck at the end of the week or month. So lets give ourselves weekly and/or monthly rewards. To make it more stimulating, we can even give ourselves daily rewards.

In order to reward yourself, you need to set goals. Most of you probably have a business plan and hopefully daily or at least weekly writing goals. When we accomplish those goals, we can reward ourselves.

Bigstock photo

So what are some ways we can reward ourselves?

Daily Rewards: These are rewards you can give yourself when you accomplish your daily writing goals.  Those can be daily word count, daily blog post/comment, daily promotion activity, etc.
  •  Walk in the park or play a sport. (I play pickleball, but I don’t go until I’ve finished my daily word count.) 
  •  Play a game (this can be tricky as you have to be disciplined to stop playing the game when you need to move on to the next goal. LOL)
  • Do a series of stretch exercises.
  • Pay yourself.  i.e.  Every time you write 500 words, put $5.00 in the piggy bank or jar. You can spend this for rewards or use it to promote your book when it is finished. Or it can be used to pay conference fees.
  •  Call a friend (Do not do this one if you are a late night writer, unless you know that friend is a late night person also. LOL)
  • Play with your family and/or pets.
  • Cup of your favorite coffee

My feral cat Boo who loves a pet when I take a break

Weekly Rewards: These rewards should be bigger than the daily rewards because you are accomplishing a bigger goal. You can add these to the daily rewards you have selected.

  • Take a day trip with family or friends
  • Go to lunch with friends. (When I’m home, I meet my critique partners for lunch and that motivates me to have the chapters finished so they can critique them.
  • Get a massage
  • Go shopping and spend that money you have been putting in the piggy bank for a new outfit or something that delights you.
  •  Read a book
  • Go to a movie

Hike at Red Mountain State Park, Arizona

Other Rewards:  These can include finishing a project, manuscript, proposal, setting up a promotion campaign, etc.  Since most of these involve a bigger commitment, the reward can be bigger. Make the reward fit the accomplishment.

  • Take a trip
  •  Plan a super date with significant other or friends. i.e. dinner and a play,  lunch and day at the Art Festival, etc.
  • Pay for a house cleaning.
  • Attend a conference
  • Buy a new car  (okay that is a biggie, but hey if it motivates you, go for it)
Suzanne, Sandra and Rose at RWA 2016

So can you think of any other ways to reward yourself? What are some of the ways you reward yourself? Please share in the comments and be entered into a drawing for an autographed book and a surprise package of books to go with it.

I finished my current wip and since it is set in Hawaii, I rewarded myself with a spam sandwich. Spam is big in Hawaii. I also treated myself to massage therapy. Ahhhhh life is good.

Peaches are in season so I’ve baked some peach pies and made peach cobbler. (Disssclaimer: It won't be as good as Patti Jo's.)  Help yourself to a piece and try a cup of my Chocolate Mocha Swirl coffee. Baking is one of my rewards also.  I love to bake, but we can’t be eating all of that high calorie stuff now and it takes time to bake so baking a pie is a reward for me.

Sandra Leesmith writes sweet romances to warm the heart. Sandra loves to play pickleball, hike, read, bicycle and write. She lives in Arizona with her husband and during the hot summers, she and her husband travel throughout the United States in their motor home where she enjoys the outdoors and finds wonderful ideas for her next writing project. You can find Sandra's books here on Amazon. Three of Sandra's most popular books are also audiobooks at Audible.  

You can read more posts by Sandra here.

Monday, August 22, 2016

My Diagnosis: Writing in Layers

with guest Shannon Taylor Vannatter.

I snapped this cloud shot during our annual road trip to Texas. See how they’re like bricks, stacked on top of each other in layers above the tree line? I thought of this post when I saw them. 

For years, I didn’t know what to call my condition. I had the luxury of perfecting my chapters before I sent them to my critique partners, until I signed a contract. Suddenly with deadlines looming, I sent them page upon page of dialogue and character thought with this disclaimer: Sorry guys, this is sooooo first draft. I always add the description, body language, and emotion later. Just let me know if you like the characters and story.

That’s when one of my critters diagnosed me in a life-changing e-mail: You write in layers. 

Wow, is that what it’s called? Once I knew, I fully embraced my label. My first drafts are heavy on dialogue with a touch of character thought, light on everything else. Talking heads with no sense of where they are, movement, or emotional reactions. I’ll show you what I mean. Here’s my first draft of an early partial scene from my first Love Inspired title, Reuniting with the Cowboy. True to form, it’s all dialogue with a bit of character thought.

Here’s the setup: the heroine has a veterinarian clinic and animal shelter at her home. With a new neighbor next door, she’s anxious to win them over and hopefully avoid any complaints about her noisy critters. At the end of the first scene, she shows up bearing a dessert, recognizes her new neighbor, and almost drops the dish. This is the beginning of scene two:

Cody grabbed the dish, his hands closing over hers. Ally. On his porch. Skittish as a newborn colt. Who would have thought one kiss would put the wariness in her eyes and cause Ally to spend all that time since avoiding him? 

“Cody? You’re my new neighbor?”

“Looks like.” 

“I thought you’d be back on the circuit by now.” 

“I…um…I decided not to go back to the rodeo.” More like his doctor decided for him. 

“Aubrey is home and I needed a place of my own.”

“You bought the place next to me?”

“This was the only land available with enough acreage to start a ranch.” Technically leasing, with an option to buy. 

“What happened to Aubrey not being big enough for you?”

“Things change. Does your mom still live with you?”

“She does. Okay, yeah, I still live at home. But it’s the perfect place for my vet practice-slash-shelter and Mom’s my office manager at the clinic.”

“Come on in. And tell me this is a four-layer delight.”

“It is. Mom made it, but I didn’t come to stay.” 

This draft has 180 words. Other than Cody grabbing the dish, there’s no movement. Through the entire scene, they stand like statues, both holding the dish. We know they’re on his porch only because of his thoughts. Except for that one movement, everything above is mostly dialogue with a splash of character thought and that’s how my first drafts always look. 

Here’s the version that went into print:

Cody grabbed the dish, his hands closing over hers. His breath caught.

Ally. On his porch.

Same old Ally. Long waves the color of a dark bay horse’s coat, usually twined in a thick braid but loose today and spilling over her slender shoulders. Cautious coffee-colored eyes as skittish as a newborn colt.

He’d succumbed to her charms once. It had rearranged his insides and altered everything. Who would have thought one kiss would put the wariness in her eyes, build an uncomfortable wall between them and cause Ally to spend all that time since avoiding him? 

All because of his disobedient lips.

“Cody?” Her voice went up an octave. “You’re my new neighbor?”

“Looks like.” And now he’d gone and moved in next door to her. Maybe not the best way to keep his distance. “Let me take this.” He scooped the dish out of her hands.

“I thought you’d be back on the circuit by now.” Her gaze dropped to his shirt collar.

“I…um…I decided not to go back to the rodeo.” More like his doctor decided for him. And that little bubble in his brain had something to say about it, too. “Aubrey is home and I needed a place of my own.”

“You bought the place next to me?”

“This was the only land available with enough acreage to start a ranch.” Technically leasing, with an option to buy. If he decided to have surgery. And lived.

She hugged herself. “What happened to Aubrey not being big enough for you?”

“Things change.” A brain aneurysm changed lots of things. “Does your mom still live with you?”

“She does.” She bit her lip. “Okay, yeah, I still live at home. But it’s the perfect place for my vet practice-slash-shelter and Mom’s my office manager at the clinic.”

“Come on in.” He stepped aside, striving for casual, despite the drumming of his heart. “And tell me this is a pecan chocolate four-layer delight.”

“It is. Mom made it, but I didn’t come to stay.” She glanced toward her place.

I’m not saying this is the second draft, just the final one. Sometimes, I pour over scenes, adding and deleting four or five times.

Now at 341 words, emotional reactions give you a sense of how both characters feel about seeing each other again. We see what Ally looks like from Cody’s perspective. They still stand there holding the dish for a bit as they’re both in shock, but there’s movement as he takes it from her. More detail into his medical condition explains why he’s back, why he’s only leasing, and it ups the stakes. He steps aside to let her in and you find out more about the dessert in case readers aren’t familiar with it. And instead of only saying she doesn’t want to come inside, she shows her reluctance. There’s still not a lot of movement here, but once she gives in and goes inside, they move around more in the rest of the scene.

I’ve met so many writers over the years who haven’t finished a book because they keep going back and trying to perfect the first paragraph, scene, or chapter before they can move on. 

Unless my critique partners are going through my work as I write, I complete the entire book before I go back into layer what’s missing. Sometimes my first drafts include clichés, mostly telling instead of showing, and scenes in the wrong point of view. Giving myself permission to write badly propels me forward. I’ve never, ever, ever had any problem with finishing a book. 

Every writer is different. Certain techniques work for some and don’t for others. If you struggle with perfection or with finishing your book, try giving yourself permission to write badly, finish that first draft, and layer in the good stuff later. 

Question: What writing technique have you discovered that works for you?

Today Shannon is generously giving away  2 copies of Reuniting with the Cowboy. International included. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.

Can’t wait for the drawing? On sale August 23: Reuniting with the Cowboy

The Cowboy Next Door 

A charming cowboy moving in next door shouldn't be bad news. But veterinarian Ally Curtis knows Cody Warren—she'd never forget the boy who left her when she needed him most. Cody is doing everything he can to show his beautiful neighbor he's not the wild bull rider he once was, from helping her find homes for her beloved strays, to protecting her when her business is threatened. But Cody has a secret that keeps him from fully reaching out. Yet as they continue to work together to promote her shelter, he can't keep himself from hoping that Ally might have a home for him…in her heart.

Award winning, central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots. Vannatter has twelve published titles and is contracted for three more. 

It took Vannatter nine years to get published in the traditional market. She hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as her characters struggle with real-life issues. Their journeys, from ordinary lives to extraordinary romance through Christ-centered relationships, demonstrate that love doesn’t conquer all, Jesus does.

Learn more about Shannon and her books at Shannon’s Website and check Shannon’s Blog full of real life romance and weekly book giveaways.

Connect with her: Shannon’s Facebook, Shannon’s Goodreads, Shannon’s Pinterest, Shannon’s Twitter, and  Shannon’s Amazon Author Page.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Weekend Edition

This is a Castles in the Clouds release celebration Weekend. 
Leave a comment for a chance to win one of 3 giveaway copies. 
Winners announced in the next Weekend Edition

We Have Winners

If you are not familiar with our giveaway rules, take a minute to read them. It keeps us all happy! All winners should send their name, address, phone number to claim prizes.

Reminder: If you were a lurker from a few weeks back, please claim your prize. The list is here.  

Winners from last weekend of the California Gold Rush Romance Collection are Holly Ison and Phyllis Wheeler.

Ruth Logan Herne's critique winner is Sharee Stover!

 We welcome back Bethany House author Melissa Jagears Monday, with her post "Don't Put Yourself Up a Creek Unless You Should." Time to talk etymology today. Terri Weldon is the winner of  A Heart Most Certain.

Tuesday author Keli Gwyn returned to Seekerville with her post, "Twelve Tips for Choosing Character Names." Keli is generously giving away THREE copies of her Love Inspired Historical ReleaseMake-Believe Beau. Winners are Sharee Stover, Dawn Leonard, and Nicky Chapelway.

Wednesday Publishers Weekly best-selling author Debby Giusti was our hostess. She  talked about "A Writing Process: Total Immersion." Laura Conner Kestner is the winner of PLAIN TRUTH, Debby's September Love Inspired Suspense, and a surprise gift.

 Jessica Nelson was our guest Thursday with her post "Writer Unboxed." Josee is the lucky winner of her Regency-set Love Inspired Historical, A Hasty Betrothal. Oh, and a bit of chocolate too!

Next Week in Seekerville

Monday:  Shannon Taylor Vannatter is back! She's sharing "My Diagnosis: Writing in Layers." You'll definitely want to stop by if you'd been diagnosed with the same thing! Or share your own diagnosis. Either way, a comment gets your name in the drawing for her latest Love Inspired release, Reuniting with the Cowboy!

Tuesday:  In today's post-"Those Small Rewards," Sandra Leesmith will talk about the rewards of writing and ways to motivate your production levels. As a reward for dropping by, your name will be put in the drawing for an autographed book plus a surprise.

Wednesday:   Inspired by a recent trip to the Grand Canyon, Seeker Glynna Kaye will be sharing “Rim-To-Rim: 7 Tips for Crossing the Book Canyon from Page One to The End.”  She’ll be giving away to a lucky winner an e-copy of James Scott Bell’s “The Mental Game of Writing: How to Overcome Obstacles, Stay Creative and Productive, and Free Your Mind for Success”!

Thursday:  Cara Lynn James is your hostess. Do stop by to chat with Cara over a cup of java!

Friday: The Best of the Archives: "Pam's Writing World," with Pam Hillman. Comments are closed on Fridays to catch up on writing and reading!

Seeker Sightings

The following Seekers will be in Nashville: Mary Connealy, Janet Dean, Julie Lessman, Ruth Logan Herne, Myra Johnson, Debby Giusti and Pam Hillman. Do introduce yourself and be sure to look for them at the end of the day at the nearest watering hole.

The ACFW Awards Gala can be followed on the Live Blog. Details here. We'll be cheering for all our Villager friends and Seeker Missy Tippens. The Carol Award finalist list is here. Genesis Award finalists are listed here. These same links will have the winner lists on Sunday!

99-CENT SALE ON A GLIMMER OF HOPE!  Julie Lessman is gearing up for the release of book 2 in her Isle of Hope series, Love Everlasting, with a sale on A Glimmer of Hope, the prequel novella to her award-winning novel, Isle of Hope.  

So if you haven't read A Glimmer of Hope yet, now's a good time! It has a 5-star rating on Amazon and will give you a sneak peek into book 1 in the series, Isle of Hope, along with IOH's first chapter, so check it out HERE


PREORDER Book 2 in Julie Lessman’s Isle of Hope series,  
Love Everlasting, HERE


JULIE LESSMAN CONTEST! Win your name in Love Everlasting (which will also be in paperback by Christmas) along with a signed copy! 


Random News & Information

Thank you to everyone who sent links.

Natalie Monk has contracted with Barbour to participate in a nine-author romance novella collection which has a tentative release date of summer 2017. Congratulations, Diva!

WOOT! Congratulations, Cindy Wilson on the sale of two books to Entangled Teen for publication in 2018!

Congratulations to the TARA Finalists. With a special shout out to Jeanne Dickson, Tanya Agler, Davalyn Spencer, and Laurie Wood.

Congratulations to the Orange Rose Divas. Placements have been announced! A special shout-out to Jackie Layton! For those who are not aware, this is a very tough contest.

Publishers Lunch: At Harper Christian, Becky Monds has been promoted to acquisitions editor for fiction, and Karli Jackson moves up to associate acquisitions editor.

How To Be a Good Beta Reader (Bookbaby Blog)**

Industry Eyes: Interview with Acquisitions Editor, Susan Brower (Gilead Publishing)

Don't Sacrifice Your Own Writing (Babbles from Scott Eagan)

How To Write And Market Romance With J.A.Huss (The Creative Penn)

The Complete, Always-Updated Guide to Facebook Advertising (Buffer Social)

How Napping Changes Your Brain That Makes You More Creative (LifeHack)**Vindicated!!

An Encyclopedia of Every Literary Plot Ever (Vulture)**

Publishers' Dilemma: Judge A Book By Its Data Or Trust The Editor's Gut? (NPR)**

Instagram for Indie Authors (AME)

54 Pieces of Advice for Your Writers Conference Success (Steve Laube Agency)

How to Get Your Writing Done Every Day: The Three-Bucket System (Goins, Writer)**

Build An Epic Visual Strategy for Your Author Brand (Your Writer Platform)**WOW!

Ad Stacking, Writing Habits, Boxsets, And Motivation Through The Tough Times (The Creative Penn)**

Short on time? Read the **links and come back for the rest later.

Have a great writing and reading weekend. Enjoy ACFW Nashville and the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat!

Please grab a piece of cake on your way to the rest of your weekend and give a Happy Birthday shout-out to Ruth Logan Herne! Happy Birthday, Ruthy!