Monday, September 26, 2016

Mission Possible—Ground the Reader

Your mission as an author—should you choose to accept it—is to ground your reader with the opening of your story.

First chapters—and last chapters—are the hardest to write. Often, writers will return again and again to “tinker” with either or both of these chapters. It has been said that the first line sells the book, and the last line sells the next one. Therefore, a lot has to be accomplished within the first chapter to entice the reader to keep reading.

The essentials—create a compelling protagonist, establish a reader bond with the character, and rock this sympathetic character’s world. Let’s examine the building blocks of each of these ingredients.

I. Opening Lines

As in life, first impressions can make or break potential relationships. You want your reader to form a connection with your main character. Your first and primary job is to hook the reader/agent/editor. You get one chance. Don’t blow it. Don’t give them a reason to stop reading.

Elements of Great First Lines Include—

1. The name of the character Or the use of a pronoun in such an intriguing first line that the reader continues to read the 2nd line and the 3rd and the 4th and so on.

2. An illusion of story reality (setting and situation) that causes the reader to willingly suspend disbelief. The opener straps in the reader and prepares them to enjoy the story ride.

3. Something is about to happen—an interruption to their “normal” world. Cultivate a sense that the reader has arrived in the middle of an active situation.

Description bogs down the reader and slows the pace. Weave description in carefully. The character and the situation must be fluid and in motion. Don’t warm up the engine. Rev the storyline and put the character into gear immediately.

II. Character Bond

The character must be interesting and an engaging figure. The reader should identify with some characteristic of the protagonist’s personality or dilemma. Here’s how to ensure the reader’s continuing, emotional investment:

A. Sympathy Factor—

1. Undeserved hardship—Haven’t we all been there?

2. Character in jeopardy—Jumpstarts our sympathy.

3. The odds are against him/her—Everyone pulls for the underdog.

4. Vulnerability—Show the inner conflict. Contradictions in a character add intrigue to reader curiosity. Also, give a glimpse of the forces arrayed against the protagonist, which could potentially crush the character’s dreams and hopes.

B. Likeability Factor—

Likeable people do likeable things. They save the cat, pat the bunny—they care about others. They can be witty or interesting. Use deep POV to catapult reader into the emotions of the protagonist as the main character experiences these emotions.

III. Storyworld

Set the stage. The opening scene must paint an image in the mind of the reader—the who (introduce early given and surname of main character); the when; and the where. This opening image will set the tone of the reading experience—suspense, thriller, romance (by the lack and longing thereof), etc . . . Establish the year (contemporary or historical), time of day, season, and the location of your story. Show what is happening now. Not what happened in the past before the story curtain rises. Setting also equals mood, theme, time, and pace. Establish the setting right away with a quick general sense of where the action begins. Sprinkle in as many of the five senses as you can through the main character’s POV to bring the setting to vivid life.

A. Common Mistakes—Just the Facts, Jack.

Try highlighting all backstory and description. This visual reminder will enable you to see where you need to trim. Allow yourself 1-2 sentences of backstory in the first chapter—only enough to increase curiosity. Never satisfy. Leave them wanting more. Compel them to turn to Chapter 2 to find the answers to the questions Chapter 1 has raised. Reveal as little as possible in the beginning. Less is more. Reveal only what is necessary and when necessary until the reader is committed to finding out what happens next. Act first, explain later.

B. Remedy—Slice, Dice and Splice

1. Slice what is not vital. Dice backstory into bits. Splice what is needed to understand what is happening now. Blend in on a need-to-know basis—only when the reader needs to know it.

2. Shorten and sharpen. Presume all backstory is unnecessary. Pretend you will have to pay for every word.

3. Show relationships through action and dialogue. Instead of a description dump, show behavior, quirks, or habits that go beyond physical description. Aim for quality, not quantity, in description. Use action verbs. Search and replace verb configurations of “to be."

4. Examine the white space on the page. Did you utilize dialogue and action—lots of white space—to prevent readers from putting down the book? Or is the page cluttered with narrative telling?

 Questions to ask your first chapter—

1. Did I hook the reader?

a. Will the reader care about the main character?
b. Is the main character likeable? Quirky or funny? Appealing? Sustainable?

2. Does the 1st chapter show the main character in the present action or dilemma of the story?

a. Was the reader pulled into the POV’s character and situation immediately?
b. Can the reader “see” the main character? Are their emotions clear? Does the reader have a picture of the character’s identity and what they need or want?
c. Did I introduce the potential opposition—who or what—which might prevent the main character from achieving what they long for?

3. Did I employ dialogue and action with lots of white space to provide more visually conducive reading experience?

4. Does the 1st chapter provoke new questions, stretching the hook, adding more interest, and thus reeling the reader into Chapter 2?

5. Does the opening scene achieve your purpose?

a. Whose POV is utilized?

b. Who is present in the scene?

c. Why is each one here? What does each character want?

d. Where is the scene?

e. When is the scene—time, day, season, year?

f. What happens?

g. How does the plot entice, hook and advance the story into Chapter 2?

h. How will this scene enhance character development?

Probably the best opening line I’ve ever written—the line readers tell me they find most memorable—came from my debut novel, Carolina Reckoning.

Part of her wasn’t surprised by what she discovered in her husband’s coat pocket.”

Giveaway—Share your favorite opening line from a book for a chance to win one of 2 copies of Falling for the Single Dad.  

Order Your Copy

   Finding Her Way Home

After fifteen years away, Dr. Caroline Duer is nervous about returning to her hometown. The veterinarian might be able to save stranded sea turtles, but she can't convince her dad of her good intentions. And when Caroline meets darling Izzie Clark, she encounters similar suspicion from the young girl's father. Former coast guard commander Weston Clark had his life upended by Izzie's mother. He won't go through the same pain again. But Izzie isn't the only one tumbling head over heels for the enigmatic Caroline. And if she can release the pain of the past, she just might be the missing piece Weston and his daughter have been searching for.


Lisa Carter's novel, Under a Turquoise Sky, won the 2015 Carol Award for Romantic Suspense. Her latest contemporary romance is Falling for the Single Dad. The author of seven romantic suspense novels and a Coast Guard series, Lisa enjoys traveling to romantic locales and researching her next exotic adventure. A native North Carolinian, she has strong opinions on barbecue and ACC basketball. She loves to hear from readers.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Weekend Edition

We're celebrating the release of Ruth Logan Herne's The First Gift, this weekend. Leave a comment to get your name in the mailbox for one of three copies to be given away!

We Have Winners

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

The Pithy Winner of an Amazon Gift Card from last week is Barbara Burke.

Monday Janet Dean was your hostess. She talked about writing kissing scenes in her post "'Pucker Up' Your Hero and Heroine Within Publisher Parameters." Evelyn Hill won a Seeker eBook of her choice.

Tuesday Angela Meyer was our special guest with her post on "Building Your Email List." Vince is the winner of Where Healing Starts.

 Publisher's Weekly Bestselling author Debby Giusti was your hostess
Wednesday in Seekerville. She shared with her post "Amish Fiction. What's the Draw?" Winners of Amish book packs are Connie (Older & Smarter), Tina Marie Watson, Linda Moffitt, Bonton, Andrea Woodard, and Beth J (Beth's Favorite Recipes) and Trixi. 

 Love Inspired author debut author Laurel Blount was our very special guest Thursday. She's bringing you "Fun with Storyboards." Vicki Marney is the winner of a cool giveaway that includes Laurel's release, A Family for the Farmer.

Next Week in Seekerville

Monday: Lisa Carter returns to Seekerville with her post, "Mission Possible—Ground the Reader." Stop by to chat and pick up some tips to take your first chapter to the next level. Plus you could win a copy of Falling for the Single Dad. 

Tuesday: Sandra Leesmith will discuss placing ads to promote sales. Sandra will ask readers to share their experiences with placing ads. What works and what doesn't work. One writer commenter will win $25.00 toward an ad of their choice. One reader commenter will win a Seeker book.

Wednesday: Glynna Kaye joins us with "5 Tips for Taking Your Writing to the Next Level, " with an opportunity to entered in a drawing to win her November Love Inspired release, "The Pastor's Christmas Courtship."

Thursday: Cara Lynn James is your hostess today.

Friday: Best of the Archives with Julie Lessman. Comments are closed on Friday to allow more reading and writing time!

Saturday:The  Birthday Bash Begins with the October Contest Update. Stop by to meet our October Diva/Divo. The prize vault is open.

Sunday: The Weekend Edition is on Sunday in October. We announce our weekly winner in the WE ED. Week 1 winner will be announced on Sunday, October 2.    
Buy Link
Seeker Sightings

You're invited to the Seekerville 9th, Birthday Bash.October 1-31.

 We'll blog 7 days a week in October with a giveaway, EVERY SINGLE DAY.  October is when we give back to our Villagers for the journey!

Every comment is an entry for our Grand Prize an iPad mini or one of our weekly giveaways of either an Amazon gift card ($50) or a Kindle Fire.

Two great covers!
You can preorder Glynna Kaye's The Pastor's Christmas Courtship here.

Wednesday, September 28th, join Myra Johnson on Lena Nelson Dooley's blog, A Christian Writer's World. Don't miss the Castles in the Clouds interview, and you could win your own copy!

Tina Radcliffe will be speaking to the Phoenix area chapter of ACFW, Christian Writers of the West, today, Saturday, September 24th. "What Have You Done Today To Make Your Dreams Come True?" Details here.
On Friday, September 30, 2016, Ruth Logan Herne will be inducted into the Hilton High School Hall of Fame! Ruthy is crazy excited about this. It's open to the public, so if you're from upstate New York, come on over to Hilton High School's auditorium at 2:30 on Friday. There will be a community reception immediately following the induction ceremonies.

Round Two of "THUNDERCLAP," this time for Ruth Logan Herne. Ruth, Mary, and Julie are all part of the Christmas Cowboy Homecoming collection from Gilead Press, due out next month!!! By clicking on the link below and offering "support" you're agreeing to get a notice that the book is coming out... and it builds our group of book-loving supporters! So if you want to help a struggling author this Christmas (cue the carols and hymns!) click below and then click to support! 

WIN A CHARACTER NAMED AFTER YOU in Julie Lessman's November paperback release of Love Everlasting AND a signed copy, PLUS signed copies of three of Julie’s novels and a framed quote. Details can be found HERE!


FREE DOWNLOAD on Julie Lessman's A Glimmer of Hope the prequel novella to her award-winning novel Isle of Hope. Get your free e-copy of AGOH at AMAZON, BARNES AND NOBLE, or KOBO.


50% SALE on Julie Lessman's award-winning ISLE OF HOPE, the 5-star novel on Family Fiction Magazine's Top 15 Novels of 2015! Buy Link. 


BOOK 2 IN ISLE OF HOPE SERIES coming September 30! Preorder Julie Lessman's new novel, Love Everlasting here. Preorder Link

Random News & Information.

Thank you to everyone who sent links.

The Talented Blind-Person Spot (The Monday Morning Memo)**

What to Do After You Write a Book (The Write Practice)**

Future Perfect? Past Continuous? What are All the Verb Tenses? (ProWritingAid)

Mastering the Art of the Scene (The Book Designer)**

Why I Write:Part One (Steven Pressfield)

Getting Ready to Launch a Book? Start with These 5 Questions (Jane Friedman)

How Bookbub's Selection Process Works (Bookbub Partners)**

Facebook and Author Marketing (Tim Grahl)

33 Common Words & Phrases You Might Be Saying Wrong (WD)

How to Fight the Comparison Battle (The Write Conversation)   

How Will an Author Platform Make You a More Successful Author? (BadRedhead Media)**

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

Have a great reading and writing weekend. See you next Sunday, when we eat cake! Birthday cake!

October birthday bash! 31 days, 32 giveaways!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Best of the Archives: What "The Princess Bride" Teaches Authors No Matter How Many Times You've Watched the Movie!

The main portion of this post was published February 9, 2012...

"Mawwiage. That bwessed awwangement!"

If you haven't watched The Princess Bride, check out this scene Then come back here. Pretty please.

What should be a pompous, royal affair is a circus sideshow that makes you laugh out loud, rooting for our sweet Wesley to come to Buttercup's rescue. Who knew that all our hero really needed was a Holocaust Cloak? And a wheelbarrow?


It's the amazing device we use to evoke emotions in a scene by our play of words and the strength of our characters.

We imply a certain meaning behind the word.

Readers infer from what we've implied.

Okay, enough with the stinkin' English lesson. I love using connotation in character building because once you create a character in a reader's mind, the reader expects that character to behave well... in character. Duh. And using or mis-using words is just plain fun.

Jack angled his gaze left. "Listen, Sweetheart, I don't recall inviting you to this conversation."

Bogart's use of the word "sweetheart" is world renowned.
Do you think Jack's REALLY talking to his sweetheart? I'm gonna' go out on a limb and say "no". How about this:

"Oh. Yeah. She's a real sweetheart." Maeve  drawled the words for effect. "And my hair gets naturally highlighted by the sun about every six weeks, give or take."


"That was a sweetheart deal, Rocky!"


"He's a sweetheart." Mary set the table with gentle finesse. "That man hasn't hurt a soul in his life."

And that might be the only real "sweetheart" we've seen so far.  So how do you do this effectively?

STAY IN CHARACTER.  And if every character you write sounds the same, then you've got to s-t-r-e-t-c-h yourself.

Poor sweet Wesley being stretched in "THE MACHINE" in The Princess Bride... He ends up mostly dead.  Mostly dead is nearly alive. Just so you know. Really, just spare yourself my lame attempts to teach you and go watch the movie. You'll love it. I promise. And you'll become a better writer by osmosis. And Valentine's Day is coming up and nothing is more romantic and fun than The Princess Bride.

"I'd die to be able to wear the sweetheart neckline Tiffany's sporting tonight." Stella encompassed the close circle of women and leaned in as she continued, "Or I could just find out the name of her plastic surgeon."

So many ways to use a single word like "sweetheart" and that's only the tip of a very big iceberg. 

As you edit your work, examining/scrutinizing/studying each phrase for length, connotation and f-l-o-w is a huge help to becoming the concise, tight writer you want to be. At least I think that's what you want to be (unless you don't need editing, in which case I'm going to excuse myself and go eat three pies, one cake and a bowl of ice cream, hoping to feel better about myself because edits are my middle name. After "Ruthy" and right before "never get it right the first time Logan".) 

In The Princess Bride, Buttercup is always herself. Sweet, endearing, beautiful and tough enough to stand up to Prince Humperdink. Every word she utters enforces that image.

Humperdink is a dastardly rich prince who cares nothing for Buttercup and everything for fame and power, a total egotistical jerk. But behind his evil air, you sense the heart of a craven coward, a man who cringes before pain like the sniveling liar he is. And that just makes you HAPPY when he meets his match.

Wesley... a simple farm boy, he's in love with Buttercup but must seek his fortune on the treacherous seas of the Dread Pirate Roberts.... Believed dead, we realize that Wesley lives... and comes for Buttercup only to find her heartbroken and ENGAGED TO THE SNIDELY WHIPLASH PRINCE!

Inigo Montoya.... 

Now, you might not see it this way, (you'd be wrong, but it would be rude of me to point that out here) but I believe Inigo Montoya is the glue that brought all the starring roles together. He is a man (Mandy oh-what-a-stinkin'-cutie Patinkin) who must avenge his father's death. He has searched and studied for over two decades, searching for the six-fingered man...  And now he just might find him, with Wesley's help. If they can get Wesley over being "Mostly Dead". And that's a trick.

And of course, there's Fezzik played by Andre the Giant. 

Fezzik's role isn't just to intimidate. He's the "Hoss Cartwright" of the bunch, the sweet gentle giant who doesn't know his own strength, but is loyal to a fault. His self-confidence is shaky and that's led him into trouble in the past, but now he's teamed up with the amazing Wesley and Inigo Montoya. And a holocaust cloak. And a can of matches.

Drat. I dare say no more.

So here's the deal. You gotta love this movie , OR promise to watch it before you die. That's not too much to ask, right? Comments are closed so we can all spend our time writing and editing today... But we can chat this weekend! 

And when you're writing (that's right, this is supposed to have something to do with craft, right, because we're a sweet, sharing bunch of Christian gals who love to share our foibles to help you avoid the same mistakes....) umm....  Write carefully. 

And edit. Make sure the action/voice/words match the character's persona, every step of the way.

There you go. 

With comments closed, come on over to facebook and like my link to this post on my facebook page... and I'll throw your name into the basket for a copy of "Home on the Range"... Win it before you can buy it! (it's really the cat's dish, but I wash it out REAL GOOD before I throw  your names in. Only cool people have actual baskets.) 

Nick Stafford's the good son, the one who stayed home, the one who worked the land, the fields, and the cattle dynasty... if he's so good, why is his life thoroughly messed up? And as a single parent, with two struggling girls, can he put things back together enough to truly make his "Home on the Range"?

I'd love to have you read it and review it on Goodreads or any book distributor when it comes out, if you've got time... And if not, no worries. 

Ruth Logan Herne is having a hoot with this new bend in the road, she still has trouble believing that anyone would really pay money to read what she wrote, but since they do, she'd like them to continue that trend.  You can visit her at, The Yankee Belle Cafe  or at 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Fun with Storyboards

I’m not…ahem…a particularly organized person. I like to say I’m a “big picture” person, but my best friend insists that’s just a nice way of saying “chronically messy and easily distracted by colorful things.”

More on that in a minute.

Unfortunately, I’m as messy in my writing as I tend to be in other areas. In fact, in the past, I’d often discover after days and days of writing that I needed to go back and discard virtually all of what I’d produced. This was usually because I’d ventured off onto some enticing little rabbit trail, or because I’d been treading water and going nowhere due to the fact that I had no clear idea of what should happen next in my story.

And seriously, people. Who has time for that?

When you’re hauling yourself out of bed at 4 a.m. to squeeze in a writing session, that time is precious--as anybody who’s voluntarily gotten out of a cozy bed at that hour knows all too well.  I sure didn’t want to waste so much of it writing stuff that I ultimately couldn’t use, so about a year ago I began to research story planning methods that might work well for a disorganized creative visual learner like myself.

Enter—ta-da!  Storyboards!

 Not only are these marvelous things so much stinking fun to make (Think colored sticky notes! Trips to the office supply store! Joy!), but they have really helped me keep my daily writing sessions on target—by keeping the “big picture” I’m so fond of right smack-dab in front of me.

So just in case there are more fledgling writers out there struggling to make the most of their precious writing time, here’s my own little newbie author storyboard method:
 I use a dry erase board and one foam project board for each story, but two of the same kind would certainly work. I also use a variety of bright sticky notes in different sizes. (Be sure to get the Super Sticky Post-it Notes ® or another full adhesive variety so they will stay put! 

Trust me. I learned that the hard way!)

 Oh, and pick cute colors. Because. Fun.

The dry erase board is my GMC board, based on Debra Dixon’s book  GMC: Goal, Motivation & Conflict. I mark it off into columns.


 Although I draw my grid with a marker, I use 3” x 3” sticky notes for the content. Each point of view character is assigned a different color sticky, and I put those into the grid, detailing all the inner issues that add momentum and meaning to the story. I also include the “hooks” of my story, those little attention grabbers that make the book appealing to potential readers.

On the foam project board, I use the tiny rectangular sticky notes as chapter headings. Once again I use a different color 3” x 3” note for each p.o.v. character to rough out a scene-by-scene outline, jotting down the basic events of each section. When I’m done, I have an overview of how my story is structured.

I then take out my smaller stickies again and flag my plot’s turning points and the black moment to check my pacing.  Since I also need to make sure the love story is developing naturally, I go back through one last time, adding pink sticky notes that detail what the characters are noticing about each other, how their feelings are growing, etc.

When I’m done, I have a bird’s eye view of my plot, and that makes it easier for me to recognize and fix problems before I’ve written them into the manuscript. The great thing about this is how low stress it all is. I have no real sweat equity invested, so I feel free to play with my story until I’m satisfied with its flow and development. It’s a lot less painful to toss a sticky note (or a whole pile of them) in the trash than it is to delete hours of writing.
Best of all, I think this is a tool that both plotters and pantsers can embrace. Now me, I’m primarily a plotter with an easily bored inner pantser. The rogue pantser part of me often thinks it would be a great idea for my characters to suddenly skip out on their planned activity to go bungee jumping , or adopt a shelter puppy, or learn to ride motorcycles. And sometimes that’s exactly what they need to do.

 But other times those tangents turn out to be a big waste of precious 4 a.m. writing time. That’s when my storyboard serves as a wonderful compass pointing me to my story’s true north. It’s a great negotiating tool between my plotter and my free-spirited pantser, and it helps me to figure out what spur of the moment additions would really make my plot sparkle…and which would best be saved for another story.

When I am ready to…gulp…tackle that first blank page and begin the first draft, I keep the storyboards propped up beside my desk. They serve as a quick road map every time I start a scene, cueing me in on what events and romantic elements need to be included in that particular section. They remind me of the underlying stakes of the story, and they show me what’s coming up next so I can keep all my characters off their motorcycles…or at least riding them in the right direction.

If you’re techy you can use Scrivener or a similar program to create virtual storyboards. They work beautifully, I’m sure. But of course, then you lose the joy of a totally justified trip to the office supply store and all the multi-colored wonder of sticky notes.

And that’s just sad.

What about you? Are you a storyboarder? Or do you have another planning device that works well for you? Share your story plotting method below, and you might win a package of Super-Sticky Post-it Notes ® along with a copy of my October debut novel for Love Inspired,  A Family for the Farmer! Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.

And P.S. I shared my storyboard post with Tina Radcliffe, and it turns out she is a storyboard fan. Here's her version:

Laurel Blount lives in middle Georgia with David, her husband of 28 years, four fabulous kids and an assortment of spoiled farm animals. She divides her time between homeschooling, writing, teaching Spanish at a local Christian school and milking her grouchy Jersey cow. A Family for the Farmer, (Love Inspired, October 2016) is her debut novel. Visit her website at

Get Your Copy
Home to the Farmer 

When she inherits her grandmother's farm, Emily Elliott must return to the small town she thought she'd permanently escaped. The citified single mom of twins must live on Goosefeather Farm for the summer…or lose it to neighbor and childhood friend Abel Whitlock. It's Abel's chance to own the land he's always wanted, but he won't do it at the expense of the girl he's never forgotten—or her adorable twins. Instead, Abel will show Emily how to take care of the farm and its wayward animals. He has three months to fight for a lifetime with the family he loves.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Amish Fiction? What's the draw?

By Debby Giusti 

I blame Ada Ranch Buchwalter for sparking a genre of books that has taken the Christian fiction market by storm.

Born in 1886, Ada grew up as an Old Order Mennonite. She later rejected the Plain life and was subsequently shunned by her community. The fictionalized story of Ada’s decision to leave her Mennonite sect was the basis for The Shunning, a novel written by her granddaughter, Beverly Lewis. Published in 1997 by Bethany House, The Shunning was an almost overnight success, went on to become a Hallmark movie and, to date, has sold more than a million copies. 

Steve Oates was vice president of marketing for Bethany House at the time, and in an interview with Deborah Kennedy, Oates talked about Bethany House’s initial response to Lewis’s submission. “We thought it was a good, sweet story and that there was potential for it to sell maybe 25,000 in the first year,” he recounts. 

Add another 100,000 sales to his modest assessment of the story’s anticipated success, and you’ll have a more accurate account of the book’s first year marketing history. The Shunning showed publishers how the simple life could capture the hearts of readers who were soon eagerly clamoring for more Amish stories.

Fast forward to 2013 and a Wall Street Journal article by Valerie Weaver-Zercher (“Why Amish Novels are Hot,” June 6, 2013) that highlighted the growth of Amish fiction since that first Lewis novel hit the shelves. 

Weaver-Zercher writes, “In 2003, one new romance novel with an Amish theme was published. This year at least 86 are being released. Five of the top 10 best sellers on a recent list of Christian fiction were Amish titles, and the novels regularly hit mainstream best-seller lists. The top three authors of Amish romance novels— Beverly Lewis, Cindy Woodsmall and Wanda Brunstetter—have sold among them more than 24 million books.” 

I first met fellow Georgian, Cindy Woodsmall, at the Atlanta airport when we were were both en route to an ACFW conference. Her debut novel had recently released, and she shared some of the struggle she had faced on her journey to publication, which she also recounts on her website. When Cindy started submitting, publishers backed away. Beverly Lewis was successful, and they didn’t feel there was room for another author writing Amish stories. In 2005, WaterBrook Multnomah took a chance and offered Cindy a three-book contract. A few months later, Wanda Brunstetter’s first Amish book was released. Cindy’s debut novel hit bookstores the following year and sold out within two weeks.

When books sell, editors take note, and so do writers who quickly jumped aboard the Amish bandwagon as the popularity of bonnet fiction increased.

Shelley Shepard Gray has penned 32 Amish stories since Hidden, her debut, released in 2008. “As a writer, I feel that the possibilities for stories about the Amish are endless. There is a ready-made conflict between my protagonists and outside temptations and/or dangers that I find very fun.” Shelley adds, “Readers often tell me that they enjoy the genre because they get to experience a slower pace of life. I think they also enjoy learning about a different culture." (Shelley's current releases: A Sister's Wish, Sept 27, 2016, An Amish Family Christmas, Oct 18, 2016)

In 2009, the editors at Love Inspired Books asked Patricia Davids to write something Amish. “I worked up three proposals and they offered me the contracts. It’s 2016 now and I’m still writing Amish," says Patricia. “I have to admit I was stunned at the success of those first stories. They sold like hotcakes even as reprints. Many people have asked me what the draw is for Amish romances. Beats me. I’ve never figured it out. Is it the sense of nostalgia they evoke for a kinder, gentler time? Is it because the Amish are doing something we can’t, living a simple life without electricity or higher education and they are happy? Or is it the tightness of the community that comforts our readers. Whatever it is, I hope it continues for a long time. Because, frankly, I never thought the popularity would last this long.” (Patricia's current release: The Farmer Next Door by Patricia Davids & Lancaster Country Target by Kit Wilkinson as a 2 in 1 novel)

Mary Ellis fondly recalls the Amish stories she’s written. “Although I’m currently writing romantic suspense set in the South, I enjoyed my years of writing Amish fiction very much. I loved spending time with these devout Christians. I was able to step into their slower-paced world whenever I spent a weekend there researching. I believe that’s why the genre remains popular--readers are able to remove themselves from their hectic lives and enter a world where God and family are paramount.” (Mary’s current release: Magnolia Moonlight) 

Weighing in on the Amish allure, Love Inspired author Jo Ann Brown says the stories she writes “harken back to a simpler time and a simpler life without the hubbub of the modern world, where neighbors know and care about each other and families aren’t separated by hundreds of miles.” (Jo Ann's current release: His Amish Sweetheart, Sept 2017)

Jan Drexler writes for Love Inspired and Revell. “Amish stories require the same elements as other genres: good storytelling, characters with depth, and accurate research,” she says. “The readers want stories that provide a realistic picture of this fascinating culture, and they are wonderfully supportive of authors who provide that. And because of their support and interest, Amish fiction has expanded from contemporary romances to historicals, suspense, and beyond." (Jan's current release: Mattie’s Pledge, on sale now)

As Jan mentioned, Amish fiction includes not only sweet romances and historicals but also suspense stories. 

Alison Stone includes Amish characters in the stories she writes for Love Inspired Suspense. “I don't shy away from some of the issues that crop up among the Amish. These same issues happen in any community. For example, in Plain Protector (May 2016), the heroine is a social worker who works, in part, with Amish who may have drug or alcohol issues. In my books, I try to portray (as much as is possible in series romance) a realistic view of the Amish and those that live in close proximity to them.”  As to the success of Amish fiction, Alison says, "Perhaps the genre is so popular because people long for a simpler time without all the distractions of today's fast-paced life." (Alison's latest release: Plain Cover-Up, Aug 2016)

Love Inspired editor Emily Rodmell shared her thoughts on the Amish attraction.  “Amish romance really resonates with the Love Inspired readers. It is one of our bestselling genres. Readers seem to enjoy visiting a place where times are simpler and people live off the land and aren’t always buried in their phones or tablets. All three of the Love Inspired lines (Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense and Love Inspired Historical) are actively seeking more Amish stories. But we are especially seeking Amish stories for our Love Inspired contemporary romance line at this time. So if you’ve ever wanted to tackle an Amish story, now is the time. We’d love to see it. We look for stories that have romance at their core, that put the Amish in a good light (readers enjoy reading about the lifestyle, they don’t want to see it denigrated) and that end with both the hero and heroine as members of the Amish community.”

Debby again...

With Amish suspense, I find the stark contrast between the peace-loving Amish and the villains who try to harm them provides a roller coaster of emotion and an interesting mix of cultures. Having lived near Amish communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania and attracted to their simple lifestyle, I included an Amish community and a heroine who had been raised Amish in The Agent’s Secret Past and was thrilled when the story won the Daphne du Maurier Award for Inspirational Suspense in 2015. My February 2016 release, Plain Danger, also set within the Amish community, hit # 5 on the Publisher’s Weekly bestsellers list so I can't complain about the direction my Amish stories have taken.

I'm now writing a straight Amish suspense trilogy. Amish Rufuge, the first book in my Amish Protectors series, will be out in May 2017 and features Amish hero, Abram Zook, who protects an English woman on the run. I hope readers who read my Military Investigations series will follow me to this new series and enjoy Amish Refuge as much as I liked writing the story. 

As to the draw of Amish fiction...

Some folks speculate that the glut of sexually explicit books has caused so many readers—folks searching for a good story without the sexual sensationalism—to embrace the Amish genre. A Perfect Storm, so to speak, but in a positive way that accounts for the increased sales.  

That may play into the mix, but to me, the draw seems fairly straightforward. Readers yearn for a connection that features home and hearth. Add faith and a happily ever after and you have the growing success of Christian fiction. Add a bonnet—or prayer Kapp—to the heroines of those stories, and you achieve a combination that keeps books flying off the shelves.

Do you enjoy Amish fiction? If so, what’s the draw for you? Maybe you haven’t read any stories with a bonnet on the cover. Is there a reason, and if not, are you willing to give Amish fiction a try? Share the names of any Amish books you’ve enjoyed or stories that made you see the Amish in a new light.

Leave a comment to be entered in SEVEN drawings. Winners will receive a copy of my current release, PLAIN TRUTH, along with two additional Amish books from the Seeker prize vault.

Happy writing! Happy reading!
Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti

By Debby Giusti
When widowed doctor Ella Jacobsen is attacked and left for dead in her childrens’ clinic, the peace she’s found in Georgia’s Amish country is shattered. Someone is after something in her clinic and wants her out of the way...but what are they looking for? Ella knows only that  her life is in the hands of army special agent Zach Swain. Zach can’t resist the vulnerable but headstrong Ella, who stares down danger to care for the people she loves. With one look, the loner soldier goes from investigator to protector. To save Ella, he must uncover the secrets that swirl around the idyllic community. And he needs  to do it fast, because Ella is running out of time.

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