Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Winnie Griggs
Winnie Griggs

Stakes are what drive your story forward, what makes your reader really care about the ultimate outcome. Simply defined, the stakes are the consequences your character will face if he fails to achieve his goal. If there is nothing particularly life-changing about those consequences, then your reader won’t have a reason to care.

That being said, stakes don’t have to be large in the general scheme of things, they just have to be large to your protagonist. Because if the consequences for failure doesn’t destroy your protagonist’s world in some way—be it physical, emotional or spiritual—then the reader will begin to think so what, which can be the kiss of death for your story. Having the kind of stakes that your reader can relate to, that allows the reader to internalize the consequences of failure, is what ratchets up the story tension, and story tension is what propels your reader forward through the book. In other words, give your reader something in your protagonist’s world to root for, and then put it at risk.

The stakes are what fuels the tension and conflict in your story. And as you know, the higher the tension, the more of a page-turner your story will be.

So here are a few tips for keeping your stakes front and center:

·    First and foremost, make certain your readers know what the stakes are.
And the sooner the better. The longer you take to introduce the stakes, the greater the risk you run of losing or boring the reader.
·    Never completely remove the stakes.
If you remove the stakes, you remove the sense of urgency from your story, in fact you rob it of all story tension. If you’re going to remove or resolve a particular story goal or a consequence of failure, make certain you’ve introduced something even bigger to take it’s place.

·    Which brings me to - Keep raising the stakes
Your stakes should escalate in stages throughout your story. In other words, the consequences for your protagonist if he should fail to achieve his goal should become more significant as the story progresses, and at the same time, his chances of success should narrow. Turn it into a real nail-biter as you close in on the climax of your story. An added benefit from increasing the stakes is that it forces your character to make riskier and riskier choices. You should always be thinking how can I make this bad situation worse for my protagonist.

·    Reinforce the stakes occasionally
Despite what I said above, you won’t be able to raise the stakes in each and every scene.  So when you’re not working on raising the stakes, you may want to reinforce them.  Subtly remind the reader what the stakes are, or show some other aspect of the consequences that may not have come to light initially.
·    Make your stakes engaging
Your stakes need to really matter to the character in a way that engages the reader. But keep in mind, the stakes don’t need to be earth-shattering to do this. Internal stakes can be just as compelling if properly motivated—for instance, failing to get the job your character has set his sights on can be devastating to him, and vicariously to the reader, if he’s sacrificed for years to work his way up the ladder and has tied his entire sense of self-worth, or the future well-being of his family, to achieving that goal.
·    Test your stakes by asking so what
What would happen if the protagonist just walked away from his goal? Would there indeed be strong consequences and repercussions to that character? If not, then you don’t really have high stakes. This is true even if there are dire consequences to ‘nameless others’ in the story. Because stakes are all about personal loss and the reader connection. What the reader cares about, what they are investing their time and emotions into, is your protagonist.

So what are some ways to raise the stakes in your story?

·    Be Clear On The Consequences
Make certain your reader understands the stakes.  Even if you’re not ready to reveal all the repercussions, there should be a clear impression that the stakes matter.

·    The Stakes Should Be Personal
Having consequences that involve nameless masses is nowhere near as effective as having stakes that impact your protagonist personally.  If you’ve done your job right, the protagonist is who your reader will identify with, who they will sympathize, with and you must give them a reason to worry about and root for them.

·    Use Subplots To Fold In Additional Stakes
Subplots are a good way to introduce conflicts with smaller stakes that will keep things moving in Act Two of your story.  And if you want to show your protagonist failing early on, this is a place to do it.   But these additional stakes are most effective when they feed into and impact the major story stake in some way.

·    Escalate
Start with small but intriguing consequences, then allow them to snowball into something that grows bigger as the story progresses.  If you pile it all into your opening scenes that leaves you nowhere to go.

·    Use The Domino Effect
It’s the old cause and effect method.  You want a logical escalation.  Show how decisions – good or bad – that are made at each step of the way cause problems and escalation of consequences down the road.

·    Most Importantly, Show What Your Protagonist Must Sacrifice
Part of what’s at stake is that your protagonist will change in some way to reach their goal.  And this will likely require a sacrifice on their part.  Make certain, before the climax of your story, you have given us a view of how deep this sacrifice will be.  You want to give your resolution as much power as you can to make the story satisfying to your reader.

So what do you think?  Are stakes something you struggle with in your own writing?  Did these pointers help?  Can you think of things to add?
Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for a copy of Journey to the Heart.


Click To Buy
From merry old England to the wilds of Texas, take a delightful journey into adventure and romance alongside a feisty spinster, an English lord, a trail boss, a determined widow, and an unusual train companion—a parrot. 
The Road Home by Winnie Griggs 
Anisha's life is just beginning, and Wyatt feels like his is over. How can a displaced, exotic beauty and former surgeon help two grieving orphans find a forever home? 
Also in this collection The Gentleman’s Quest by USA Today bestselling author Camille Elliot 
The Trail Boss’s Bride by New York Times bestselling author Erica Vetsch 
Winnie Griggs is a multi-published author who writes for Love Inspired Historical.  Her writing has garnered enthusiastic reviews and numerous awards, including a recent RT Reviewer’s Choice Award. 
 Winnie spent her childhood in an undeveloped area her friends thought of as the very back of beyond.  She and her two younger siblings spent many an hour exploring the overgrown land around her home, cutting jungle trails, building forts and frontier camps, and looking for pirate ships on the nearby bayou.  Once she ‘grew up’ she found other outlets for dealing with all those wonderful, adventurous imaginary friends by filling notebooks with their stories.    
 Eventually she found her own Prince Charming, a rancher whose white steed is disguised as a tractor and whose kingdom is nestled in a small rural community she happily calls home.  Together they’ve built their own storybook happily-ever-after,  including four now grown children who share Winnie’s vivid imagination and her husband’s steadier influences and who are now out in the world pursuing their own adventures.
 You can learn more about Winnie and her books at www.winniegriggs.com  or connect with her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WinnieGriggs.Author 

Monday, August 3, 2015

The rules—and why we need to KNOW them before we can break them

Mary Connealy
I was at a writer’s conference a week ago and as I sat in sessions, trying to retain anything in my overloaded, overwhelmed brain, one thing stood out to me.

It came up several times on different topics.

It’s okay to break the rules but you have to KNOW them before you can break them.

 I started asking WHY.

And I came up with an answer that applies in a lot of places but what struck me was the rule against using –ly words. Mainly adverbs.

Happily, angrily, noisily, nervously.

And here’s the reason why.

AS A RULE using an adverb is lazy. It’s a dead sentence. 

And making a LIVE sentence from a dead one is so easy.
Here’s a dead example.

“I’ll never forgive you for this,” she said angrily.

Okay the reason this is lazy and dead is because in essence you are calling your reader stupid. You are writing a sentence that is so clearly angry, then you’re TELLING your reader, “Hey, pssst, in case you didn’t notice, she’s really ANGRY.”

To which your reader reacts by beginning to skim. The author says it right once and wrong once and this book could be cut from 80,000 words to 40,000 in a heartbeat.

Almost always the –ly word is either redundant or it’s an easy way out of what could be a HARD but lively scene.

“I’ll never forgive you for this.” Her eyes brimmed with tears of rage as she jabbed her index finger right at his face. One wrong move and she might put his eye out.

Or another really STRONG way to write it is simply, "I'll never forgive you for this."

That's it. No tags. Let it stand on it's own.

“I can’t speak to my mother like that,” she whispered shyly.

His outrageous advice made her cheeks flame pink. Her shoulders hunched forward as if she was folding in on herself. She shook her head frantically and spoke barely above a whisper. “I can’t speak to my mother like that.”

Now see here, I’ve used ‘frantically’ and ‘barely’. These are adverbs. And thus I break the rules and its okay. There’s not a rule against adverbs because they’re always evil, they are just mostly evil.

If you have been writing a while and go back to look at early work you will see tons of sentences (well I DID!) in your work that are very much like,….she said angrily.

When you’re first beginning and you’re trying to act out a scene you want to tell your readers what your characters are FEELING, thus the adverbs. But they are wrong. They are the easy way out…which also equals the ‘bad writing’ way out.

Click to Buy
If there are any rules you don’t like or don’t understand or don’t believe in, let’s talk about them. One possibility is you DO understand them well enough to break them, in which case that is fine. But if you don’t quite get them (and it takes a while to get them, and then longer still to apply them to your work), maybe we can hash out what’s confusing you.

For the record, one of my early contest critiques had the words POV ERROR tagged in multiple places. I had no idea what that meant and it took me a couple of more years to fully and deeply understand that rule. So we all have a learning curve and I’m betting mine is as slow of a rise to knowledge as anyone's.



Bk #2 Wild at Heart Series
Shannon Wilde is the middle sister--and the one who loves animals. She's established her own homestead and is raising sheep for their wool. Things are going fine...until Shannon gets swept over a cliff by Matthew Tucker!

Tucker seizes every opportunity to get away from civilization, but one particular walk in the woods ends with him sprinting away from an angry grizzly and plunging into a raging river, accidentally taking Shannon Wilde with him. Their adventure in the wilderness results in the solitary mountain man finding himself hitched to a young woman with a passel of relatives, a homestead, and a flock of sheep to care for.

As Tucker and Shannon learn to live with each other, strange things begin to happen on Shannon's land. Someone clearly wants to drive her off, but whoever it is apparently didn't count on Tucker. Trying to scare Matthew Tucker just makes him mad--and trying to hurt the woman he's falling in love with sets off something even he never expected.

"The humorous plot is balanced by suspense-filled drama that unfolds, exposing more of the lives of the Wilde sisters. Readers will be waiting for the third installment with open arms." -RT Book Reviews

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Weekend Edition

We've got a Stealing Jake weekend for you as we help Seeker Pam Hillman celebrate a print release! Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy. Two winners announced in the next Weekend Edition.

We Have Winners

 Giveaway rules can be found here. Please drop us a line to claim your giveaway at seekers@seekerville.net. All prizes not claimed in 8 weeks go back into the prize vault. We wish we could contact all our winners individually, but we'd rather write books! And P.S. - if we forget to send  your prize DO let us know after 8 weeks per our rules.

Winner of the Weekend Edition conference swag from the RWA conference in New York City is Donna Phillips.

Monday Pam Hillman was our hostess with "Shelf Life, Books, and Oreos." Everything in this world has a shelf life. Deanne Patterson is the winner of a signed copy of her hot-off-the-press release "Stealing Jake."

 "DO IT NOW-Post Conference To Do List." Sandra Leesmith talked about what to do after the conference in our Tuesday post. (Besides get some rest of course). Crystal Barnes is the winner of an ebook copy of Coffee Shop Romances and our Christmas in July surprise copy of the contemporary ebook bestseller, Hope For The Holidays.   

Wednesday  Glynna Kaye brought us "Jump-Start Your Story With an Art Fact Sheet" -- tips she's learned from using a Love Inspired AFS before she writes the book. In celebration of her "Inspirational Reader's Choice Award," the winners of a 2-book set of the award-winning Pine Country Cowboy and High Country Holiday are: Cindy W, Mary Preston, Deanna Stevens, Sandy Smith, Meghan Carver, Kathryn Barker, DebH and Heidi Robbins.

Thursday  Seeker Tina Radcliffe brought us "The Secret Life of the Inspirational Romance Writer." What goes on behind those closed doors. Vince and Lori are the winners of conference swag.

Friday  2015 Christy Award, Carol Award and RITA Award finalist, Kate Breslin is our special guest. We are thrilled to welcome her back with her post, “Good Story Comes From Writing What We Know." Winner of Not by Sight is Tracey Hagwood.

Next Week in Seekerville

Starting this week, Seekerville begins our new five day work week.  We'll be blogging new posts Monday through Thursday with the Saturday Weekend Edition as usual. Friday is The Best of the Archives with comments off.  The exception is October, our birthday extravaganza month when we always blog 31 days!

Monday: Mary Connealy teaches some basics. We always hear you have to know the rules before you break them, so Mary will attempt to explain what in the world that means for one basic rules...the dreaded -LY rule.

Tuesday: Winnie Griggs tells us how to raise the stakes. Winnie will give away a copy of her newest release, Journeys of the Heart.

Wednesday: Time for the August (Yes, August!) Contest Update. Stop by to meet this month's Diva/Divo. The prize vault is open.

Thursday: Love Inspired Suspense debut author, Cate Nolan visits Seekerville today with her post, "Top Ten Things I Took Away from RWA15."  And you might get to win a copy of her October release, Christmas in Hiding!

Friday: We launch our Best of the Archives Friday with Pam Hillman, and "Quirky People Make Quirky Characters."
Seeker Sightings

Want more ways to lasso a copy of Stealing Jake this weekend? Well, grab your rope and give her a swing... There are two giveaways, both end tomorrow, August 2nd, so don't delay.

Not only did Kav over at Best Reads give Stealing Jake the sweetest, most amazing review ever, she's giving away a copy as well. Hop over to Best Reads and comment to get your name in the hat.

Two copies are up for grabs on Goodreads.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Stealing Jake by Pam Hillman

   Stealing Jake by Pam Hillman

  Giveaway ends August 02, 2015.

  See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Julie Lessman Blog Interview and Giveaway: Join Julie Lessman August 4-9 for a blog interview/giveaway on the a TransParentMom blog. Julie will be giving away winner's choice of any of her  books, including a copy of her upcoming novel, Unfailing Love, from the Isle of Hope series.(Julie's first contemporary novel). Hope to see you there.

Random News & Information

The August Calendar is UP!

Congratulations to all the IRCA winners and finalists!

Romance Writers of America honors Irene Hannon (Christian Retailing)

Does Age Influence Capability to Write YA Fiction? (The Guardian)

Happy Ever After: 100 Swoon-Worthy Romances (NPR)

My Favorite Things: Free Images and Free Photos (Novel Experience)

10 Things to Say to a Writer Who’s on the Ledge (My Christian Writers Conference)

PW Asks: Most Millennials Prefer Paper Books (PW)

9 Things You Need to Immediately Stop Doing on Facebook (Social Media Today)

Emotional Wounds Thesaurus (Writers Helping Writers)

What Code is Revealing About Readers (DBW)

How to Price Your eBook on Amazon (BadRedhead Media)

The Power of Fiction (Writer Unboxed)

Have a great writing and reading weekend.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Good Story Comes from Writing What We Know

with guest Kate Breslin.

Good morning, Seekerville! Thanks to the Seekers for hosting me today on Seekerville. I’ve brought along some freshly baked white chocolate and cranberry scones, and a steaming pot of Earl Grey, so everyone can sit back and relax with a cup while I talk about today’s topic:

Years ago as I began the journey toward publishing my first novel, I attended a writer’s conference near Portland, Oregon. Unlike most conferences held at a Hyatt or Marriot hotel with comfy beds, room service, and five-star restaurants, we budding novelists spent the weekend at a “new age” retreat, much like a Scout camp, with log cabins, bunk beds, and muesli for breakfast. The park like grounds were beautiful however, and it was thought the rustic setting might release our inhibitions and inspire creativity. Among the workshops held at the main lodge was a class entitled, “Write What You Know.” The instructor, a self-proclaimed fencing expert, arrived in her pirate garb brandishing a saber, ready to show us newbies the proper technique an Errol Flynn-styled buccaneer would use to fight on a ship’s deck—thrust, parry riposte, thrust, parry, etc. Anyway, you get the idea. 

In my naiveté, I worried that since my own story idea revolved around a Scottish highway woman and a reformed English duke living in eighteenth-century England, I lacked the skills of horsemanship, swordplay, and firing a blunderbuss shotgun, all required in making my story sound authentic. Nor had I traveled beyond the U.S. How was I supposed to write about England…or even the eighteenth century? My novel would come across vague and juvenile, like seventh-grade Creative Writing class material, while my hero and heroine would be cardboard cutouts instead of three-dimensional characters. Then it occurred to me that I’d read countless historical novels whose authors hadn’t jousted with knights or suffered the dusty, scorching confines of a covered wagon crossing Oregon Territory. Most probably they hadn’t ridden sidesaddle or churned their own butter or made tallow candles, either. So how was it that their stories and characters seemed so believable? 

It’s been a long time since those novice days at “Scout camp,” and I’ve come to realize we don’t need to be experts at fencing or riding sidesaddle in order to “write what we know.” Admittedly, personal experience is a plus, but whether it’s historical or contemporary fiction, research and reflection are keys to writing good story. Learning to understand an event, skill, or subject in such detail that we can visualize ourselves doing it. For example, in my years of storytelling I’ve discovered how to dress a turkey, deliver a breech calf, and switch a railroad track so that a trainload of Jews in WWII could bypass Auschwitz and head along a carefully mapped route beyond the Carpathian Mountains. In my upcoming WWI historical novel, Not By Sight, I learned with my heroine, Grace Mabry, to cut, aerate, and tie off bales of hay with the use of a steam baler and turn-of-the-century tools. We found that when cranking over the engine of Lord Roxwood’s 1913 Daimler automobile, Grace must keep her thumb aligned with the rest of her hand while giving the handle a quick backward then forward motion; otherwise the force of the engine’s ignition could send the handle flying and break her delicate wrist. She and I and our hero, Jack Benningham, traveled to the lovely seaside town of Margate in the county of Kent in 1917 Britain. We smelled the salt of the sea and watched gulls wheel overhead as gray green waves crashed upon the shore. And I was with her when she visited Margate’s Hall-by-the-Sea, once a very real place with its mechanical amusement rides, and street vendors selling roasted nuts, sausages, and sweet candy floss. 

I experienced these things with Grace through the benefit of research and my imagination. Yes, it’s wonderful if you happen to be a knight with the Society for Creative Anachronism, or a train engineer, or work on a farm, but if not then gaining insight—through books, Internet, photos, videos and movies—can suffice for creating good story. 

And what about those three-dimensional characters? Well, we may not literally take on the role of our hero and heroine, yet as writers and readers we can imagine what it feels like when Grace gets another blister from shoveling trenches beneath a scorching sun, or breathe in the stench of soggy feathers as she gingerly plucks her first chicken. The energy she must expend to crank over the Daimler. We know the pulse-pounding sensation of first love and the tremor of fear; our hearts have threatened to burst with excitement and ache with loss. We know the way joy touches our soul at the sight of a small miracle, proof that God is listening to our prayers. 

Just like actors mentally prepare for their roll on stage, writers must draw upon their own emotional experiences to enhance and deepen their story. “Bleeding onto the page” is a term we often use to describe having to write an intense scene; peeling back those layers and exposing our vulnerabilities in order to create authenticity in our characters. Literally writing what we know so as to reach out and grab the reader by the hand and bring them into our world…

Now, just for fun and a chance to win a free copy of my new novel, Not By Sight, choose one of the questions I’ve listed below and answer in a comment:  1) In a sentence, describe a scene from the novel you’re currently reading that really drew you into the story. 2) In a sentence, name a scene from a previous novel that affected you deeply and tell us why.  

 Not by Sight

In the spring of 1917, all of Britain's attention is on the WWI war front and the thousands of young men serving their country on the front lines. Jack Benningham, dashing heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, is young and able-bodied but refuses to enlist despite the contempt of his peers.

A wealthy young suffragette, Grace Mabry will do anything to assist her country's cause. Men like Jack infuriate her when she thinks of her own brother fighting in the trenches of France, so she has no reservations about handing him a white feather of cowardice at a posh masquerade ball.

But Grace could not anticipate the danger and betrayal set into motion by her actions, and soon she and Jack are forced to learn the true meaning of courage when the war raging overseas suddenly strikes much closer to home and their fervent beliefs become a matter of life and death.

A Florida girl and former bookseller, Kate Breslin migrated to the Pacific Northwest where she lives with her guitarist husband and a persnickety cat. Author of travel articles and award-winning poetry, Kate received Christian Retailing's 2015 Best Award for first time author, and her debut novel, For Such A Time, is a Christy award, RITA award, and Carol award finalist. Kate's second novel, Not By Sight, will release in August, 2015. When she's not writing inspirational fiction, Kate enjoys reading or taking long walks in Washington's beautiful woodlands. She also likes traveling to new places, both within the U.S. and abroad, having toured Greece, Rome, and much of Western Europe. New destinations make for fresh story ideas. Please visit her at www.katebreslin.com.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Secret Life of an Inspirational Romance Writer

Today I'm going to set the record straight. 

What's it really like to be an inspirational romance writer?

It's fabulous. Absolutely fabulous.

Sure, it's annoying to have to dress incognito when I go into the world, but that's a small price to pay for the life I live. 

Wait a minute. Wait a minute. The truth is I do dress incognito. My whole life is incognito. HA!

In my ordinary world no one knows that I'm an inspirational romance writer. 

This week  a coworker asked about my recent absence. I shared that I went to New York City for a conference on my vacation.

"A conference? What kind of conference?"

"Um, I do a little writing on the side."

"Oh, a hobby."

Sigh. "Not exactly a hobby...."

This is a typical reaction to my revealing my secret life. 

Of course there is the occasional flip-side of that. I have another coworker with whom I have shared that I write inspirational romance. She told me that her mother is a voracious reader. So I brought in a copy of my latest release, Safe in the Fireman's Arms (in a brown paper bag, of course) for her mom.

That coworker came by my desk later with tears in her eyes and stunned expression on her face. "I texted the cover of your book to my mom. My mother already read your book. She said it was really good. She wants to read it again."

"Your mom is a fan of mine?"


Those moments are far and few between, but they are absolutely priceless. They make me want to shout!

"I'm an inspirational romance writer! I'M AN INSPIRATIONAL ROMANCE WRITER!"

So although I'm not fabulously rich and famous.

And no one recognizes me when I walk down the street.

And though I don't dress in full tiara mode.

Or sit in on a mountain top waiting for a word from God.

There are a few perks to this gig...

I write fun and sassy books about real Christians and their daily struggles and my name is on the cover of those books.

I get paid for that honor.

My book is on the shelf in the grocery store!

I'm honored to have the privilege to share my faith in a way that is truly me. 

And once or twice a year I get to meet my tribe at conference. And there is nothing like it. That amazing feeling of being surrounded by like-minded individuals who really, really get me.

Each year the tribe grows a bit more as I reconnect with old friends and add new ones.. It's truly an amazing honor and a kick in the pants as well. I'm not ashamed to admit I need my people and yes, they do validate me in a real and very necessary way. After five days with my peeps am ready to go back in the cave and back to my solitary life for another year or so. 

By the way, another perk of conference is I still get to be a fan girl who crushes on her favorite authors.

Here I am with suspense author and two-time RITA winner Laura Griffin. (EEEEEK!)

And with New York Times and USA Today, best-selling author Shelley Shepard Gray who asked me (ME!!!) to sign a book at the Harlequin Book signing event. Another fan girl moment! (omgosh, omgosh, omgosh) 

 The morning after the Harlequin Black & White Ball, I could barely walk after hours of moving on the dance floor like a John Travolta wanna-be. Limping and suffering quietly, with only four hours of sleep, I met Kate Breslin for breakfast. 

Kate! You were worth the pain. 

What a treat to chat with her and Irene Hannon and Lisa Carter and Tanya Agler over scrambled eggs. 

Surrounded by STARS!!!!  I can now die happy! MY TRIBE!!!  

Today I'm back to my office. This is  the reaction I got upon my return.

So what about you? What's your world as an inspirational romance writer like? Do you ever share that you have a secret life? Does anyone get it?  

Leave a comment as I have a more conference swag to send out! This year I sent TWO big boxes of swag home via Fed-Ex! Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.

And remember that we have a sale going on through Friday. Pick up some fun reads at a nice price while you can. Hope for the Holidays, Christmas in July sale!

P.S. Apologies for the excessive use of exclamation points in this post. It was..well, unavoidable!!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Starting your story with an art fact sheet?
Isn’t an art fact sheet something your editor asks you to complete once you’ve submitted the manuscript and it’s been approved? That’s the norm for authors writing for Love Inspired Books anyway.
Love Inspired authors are fortunate to have an opportunity to provide input on covers. Not that all our ideas are used, but we do get to provide insights into the story for the cover artist. LI actually has a database for this purpose that an author completes!
So how can doing an unofficial art fact sheet (known as an AFS) as you’re beginning to formulate a new story help solidify your plot, characters and scenes?
The Love Inspired AFS database will ask you to provide:
A 30-word “teaser” that will hook the reader. You know, something simple like “Drawn to a spunky woman ten years his junior, can a guilt-ridden widower overcome his fears and trust God for a second chance at love?”
A two-line pitch. This forms the introduction to a story synopsis. A 500-word synopsis. 3-5 paragraphs focusing on the conflict and its resolution, not the backstory.
Precise dates for historicals.
Story location. Seaside resort? Montana ranch? Military base? Mountain country Arizona?
Season or holiday. Autumn. Christmas. Valentine’s Day. Fourth of July. The artist may want to play up these seasons or special events.
Story themes. Friends to lovers, second chance at love, military rescue, mail order bride, marriage of convenience, woman in jeopardy, save the ranch.
What the book is about (beyond plot description). In other words, the story’s moral premise. The takeaway.
The most appealing points/elements for the reader. For instance: opposites attract, Southwestern Christmas, guide dogs, May/December romance, wagon train, a wedding, Texas cowboy.
Interesting visual elements. Objects or places that have great significance in the book, such as: An heirloom necklace. A Model T. Pottery the heroine designs. Snow-covered mountains.
Story scene details. The mood, time of day, season, weather, situation/location that would make an eye-catching cover.
Hero and Heroine details. Age, occupation, hair style/color, eye color, race/ethnicity, marital status. Love Inspired also asks for a single defining trait for each character (guilt-ridden, dreamer, headstrong, impulsive, dependable, burned out), as well as a single character type/theme (former bad boy, fugitive, mountain man, tomboy, working mother, undercover cop). These concise portrayals force you to dig out the core essence of your hero and heroine.
You’ll also be asked to provide photo images or links to images of your hero/heroine, children, pets, settings, clothing and images representing action in a scene. Currently, Love Inspired requests ideas/images for three cover options–-two with people and one with scenery only.
I always find photos of people who resemble the hero and heroine I have in mind for my story and place them in a “Wanted Poster” next to my desk to keep their faces fresh in my mind as I write. (But more on THAT in my next Seekerville post!)
Can you see how an Art Fact Sheet might serve as a magnet for drawing ideas and getting the creative juices flowing when brainstorming a new story?
Because you’re not submitting the AFS at this pre-writing point, when things change as you actually write the story, you can modify the AFS. An extra added “beauty” of using AFS basics to help you establish the core of your story is that if your publisher is one who asks for input on cover ideas, there’s no frantic, last-minute scramble. You already have a draft ready to polish and submit.
Plotters, pantsers, and plansters: What advantages/disadvantages do you see in using the elements of a basic art fact sheet to dream up that next book? What other “devices” do you use to nail down the essence of your story and characters as you prepare to launch into a new fictional world?
To celebrate a win in the short contemporary category of the 2015 RWA Faith, Hope & Love “Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award” contest, I’ll do a drawing for a copy of award-winning Pine Country Cowboy and High Country Holiday. If you’re interested in being included, please note which book (or both!) in the comments section.
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.
A Future to Build On - All widower Luke Hunter wants is to raise his three kids—and be left alone. When Delaney Marks arrives in town to oversee the youth group's house renovation project, Luke decides he must come out of hiding. He's worried she's too young to get the job done. He'll have to keep a close watch on her—and on his heart. Because being with the vibrant girl makes it easy to forget their age difference and to start hoping for a future he doesn't deserve. As tensions rise over project pressures, Delaney tries to make Luke see that some things are just out of his control—and that he is worthy of happiness...with her. (Release: October 2015)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

DO IT NOW - Post Conference To Do List.

Sandra here and nice and relaxed because I didn’t go to the conference.

So how are you conference attendees doing?

Has your brain turned to mush? Do you feel like bells are ringing in your head? You can’t stop yawning and you’d give a small fortune for a nap? Yep, you were operating in overload.

And maybe some of you who stayed home feel the same way.  LOL  I mean life can be just as much of an overload as a conference.

So let’s talk how we can organize so we don’t lose all of that information. Conference attendees, you have a huge canvas bag full of information. Those of us at home, I bet you have a pile of the same types of things somewhere on your desk or shoved in a drawer in your office.

Well now what do you do with all of that information? How do you organize it so you can remember what you gleaned, learned, who you met, etc.  And for non-conference attendees, you can use these same skills for that pile in your office.
(Admit it. You have one. I know you do. Smile)

Business Cards:

I hope you collected business cards. Right now. First thing to do is go through those now and write on the back as much information as you can remember about that person.
If you don’t write down this information you will wonder who these people are when you come across the cards next month or next year. It may already be too late. Most important are the networking contacts. If an editor gave you his/her card and wants you to submit a manuscript, then be sure you write down as much info about that person as you can remember. It will come in handy if you start working with that person.

As you do this, make piles to organize:
Piles such as:
Authors that write in your Genre
Authors you met
Professional services ( you may want to divide this further with line edits, graphic arts, formatting, publicity, etc.)

I bought a box that fits business cards like a mini file drawer and have tabs with those titles. Then when I need to find an editor I met, I go right to that tab. I have boxes for each year so I can find them by year. Sometimes I file them by event, i.e. RWA 2015 conference or ACFW 2014 conference.

 I have a friend who puts her cards in a 3 hole plastic business card holder that displays them like photos. She puts them in a binder with tab pages that divide the categories listed above. This is very easy to use and see.

If you’re tech savvy you can use one of those cool machines that file your business cards and receipts electronically. You can find those at Staples, Office Max or Office Depot or online.

If you did not attend the conference, I bet you do have a collection of business cards you have collected at author signings, workshops, or visits to a publishing house. Feel free to mention in comments other ways you’ve collected them.

If you don’t have many business cards yet, be prepared and one step ahead of the game. Get yourself set up with a system because these are some of the best networking contacts you will make. You don’t want them ending up in a corner of a drawer or in a shoebox under the bed, forgotten and unused.

Expenses and Receipts

Your conference expenses are tax deductible. Please don’t wait until next April to grab all your receipts and then try and remember what they are for. This definitely applies to all writers whether at a conference or not.  Anytime you incur an expense that can be deducted for your writing career, keep good records.


File those receipts in an organized fashion.  Whether you use a spreadsheet, an account page, a three ring binder.  Just do it. Write down expenses for everything and organize them by the categories on your tax return. Such as:

Conference Fee
Clothing bought for the conference
Books purchased

Workshop Notes

Organize those right away before you forget what you heard. File your notes and put the workshops in order of preference.

bigstock photo


Which workshops helped you with craft skills?

Which workshops gave you insights into editors and publishers? Or Agents?

Which workshops introduced you to fellow writers?

Nowadays, most conferences offer CD’s of the workshops. Even if you don’t attend the conference, you can obtain a conference CD and listen to the workshops. I highly recommend this. Some local RWA chapters buy the CD for their chapter library and members who were not able to attend can check out the CD. Some authors get together with writer friends and split the cost of a CD.

I always bought the CD’s even when I went to the conference. Then I could sit back in the quiet of my office, when my brain isn’t in overload and really get something out of those workshops. During the conference, I was too busy networking and meeting with writer friends that we normally only talked to online. Those CD’s were lifesavers.


Yep, even organize these. If you’re like me, you mailed home boxes of books. Now the trick is to sort them. Put them in order of preference. Place those you aren’t really interested in a box to take to your next RWA meeting. They will make great raffle prizes.

First order of preference:

Stack the books by the publishing house you are targeting in the first pile. Surely you obtained books from that publisher. If you didn’t go to the conference, you should have a pile of books you’ve purchased that are published by the publisher you are targeting. These should be on the top of the TBR pile.


Anyone want to tell us why???  You get your name in the book bag twice if you tell us a good reason we do this.

Bookmarks and other Swag:

I’m always amazed at how many bookmarks there are. I look all of them over and place them in piles as samples of artwork, layout, what worked for me, what didn’t work.

And of course use the bookmarks of your favorite authors to mark your place in their books.  Smiling.

Go through the swag that you liked.  What swag seemed popular?

Categorize the swag in order of preference for future reference when you want to produce some swag of our own.


Write thank you notes or letters:

This is becoming a lost art, but think of all the work that has been going on to provide this wonderful conference.

Editors and agents have donated their time to meet you and listen to your pitch. Please write a thank you note to every editor and agent with whom you had an appointment . This courtesy will not only be greatly appreciated, but will help them remember who you are among the multitude of people they have just met.

Write a thank you letter to the chairperson and the staff of whatever organization put on the conference. The work they do behind the scenes is awesome. Let them know you appreciate it.

Last but not least, please take a nap. 

You need to kick back for a day or two and let your body, mind and spirit stabilize.

Meditate and let all you learned sink in.

Bet I don’t have to tell you to do this one now.  LOL

Please share with us other helpful things to do after the conference. I get some of my best ideas from your comments, so please share.

Those who comment will be put in the drawing for an ebook copy of  COFFEE SHOP ROMANCES 


our Christmas In July Special  HOPE FOR THE HOLIDAYS.  If you already have copies, the winner can send us the kindle addie of a friend and they will get the prize.

I’ve been helping my cousin in San Diego and she has tomato plants and her own avacado trees. Look at this yummy snack I’m laying out for you.  I call it my special BLTA  (Bacon, lettuce, tomato and avacado)  The fixings are on a platter so add what you want and DO IT NOW.