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A Foray into Hybrid Publishing

 

A Foray into Hybrid Publishing


For the first ten years of my writing career I happily and blissfully wrote the books of my dreams and was thrilled when publishers actually paid me an advance for the privilege of publishing them!
But when 2020 arrived, along with the events-that-shall-not-be-named, everything went topsy-turvy, including the publishing industry.

I don't intend to rehash recent history - it's enough to say I know I wasn't alone in experiencing an upheaval in my professional and personal worlds.

A Foray into Hybrid Publishing


I wanted to do something different. In the spring of 2020, I decided to pursue a new genre. I wanted something fun. Something lighter. Something that gave me the opportunity to purse-whomp a bad guy or two (didn't we all want to purse-whomp someone at that time?) 

I turned to cozy mysteries with the thought that I would try them out. I had a target publisher, spent a year or so learning the genre, and wrote the first book in my Sweetbrier Inn Mysteries series.

But the world had gotten darker during that year to eighteen months and I quickly realized that traditional publishing wasn't an option for me at that time.*

*I want to emphasize that it wasn't an option for me. And it wasn't for me at that time.

A Foray into Hybrid Publishing

I started exploring independent publishing. I asked for advice from our own Ruth Logan Herne and Pam Hillman and reached out to a few other friends whose indie work I admired, and started learning.

After all, Ruthy and Pam made the process look so easy! And every blog post I read said it was easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy! 

I knew what I DIDN'T want to do:

1. I didn't want a cover that looked like my aunt had painted it.
2. I didn't want to ask my husband to be my editor.
3. I didn't want the font/paper/margins/etc. to look like I had cut and pasted my story to fit on a Word document.

In short, I wanted my books to have the same professional appearance that my traditionally published books had.

Was it as easy as the various blog posts claimed? No.
Was it doable? Yes.

A Foray into Hybrid Publishing

I spent as much time learning how to indie publish my book as I had spent learning how to write in this new genre. I made a LOT of errors. I wasted a LOT of time.

At the same time, I "repackaged" myself. Instead of writing only historical romances, I wanted to expand my products. Cozy mysteries were already in the pipeline, plus I wanted to leave my options open to contemporary stories, historical stories, and even historical mysteries. I also wanted to edge into the general market - a market that wasn't really open to my Christian-focused Amish stories.

My new tag line reflected all of that.

A Foray into Hybrid Publishing

After a new logo, a new website. and many, many hours of watching tutorials on everything related to indie publishing, I released my first indie book in May of this year.

A Foray into Hybrid Publishing

With that bit of experience under my belt, I'm ready to publish my next book. The release date is September 28th!

A Foray into Hybrid Publishing

Do you remember the three things I didn't want to do with my independent publishing?

1. I hired a fabulous cover artist - Hannah Linder. She's a familiar face around here, and she designs the best covers. She caught the vision of what I wanted after only a few emails, and I couldn't be happier with her designs. You'll need to stop by her website: Hannah Linder Designs

2. I hired a great editor - another name familiar to Seekerville - Beth Jamison of Jamison Editing. A great editor finds the hidden errors and inconsistencies in the manuscript, and Beth catches them all.

3. I purchased a program to give my books the professional formatting look I wanted: Atticus. Another option is Vellum, but only if your computer is a Mac.

All of these things cost money. If you're traditionally published, your publisher spends that money instead of you. There are other costs that you also pick up if you are your own publisher, but that comes with the territory. 

Eventually, the income column in my spread sheet should overtake the expenses column, but like any start-up business, that takes time. And work. A lot of work.

Which reminds me. Another little thing I did to enhance the professional appearance of my books (and my small business) was to form my own publishing company. Nothing fancy. But it took my name out of the "publisher" field on Amazon and gave me the opportunity to create my own logo and name. I call it Swift Wings Press, and I love this logo. I use it on bookmarks, my new business cards, and on the spine of my print copies.

A Foray into Hybrid Publishing

What's next?

I'll keep writing stories for the Sweetbrier Mysteries series - I'm working on a Christmas novella right now. 
There's an historical romance waiting for my attention on my computer.
And I would love to explore all the other ideas swirling in my head...

...but the great thing about independent publishing is that I can go ahead and explore those ideas, because I have the freedom to follow my own path, not the path of a traditional publishing company.

That's why I used Swift Wings Press for my imprint - I'm free to follow the wind, wherever it blows. (John 3:8)

Will I ever traditionally publish again? Of course, given the right opportunity. 

But until then, I'm enjoying what the Lord has placed before me at this time.


Have you ever considered independent publishing, either now or in the future? Or are you already in the midst of the adventure?

One commenter will win an ebook copy of "The Case of the Artist's Mistake!"


A Foray into Hybrid Publishing

The new art gallery in town is causing quite a stir, and Emma is in the middle of it!

The Sweetbrier Inn is filled with guests and the town is teeming with tourists who have come to celebrate Paragon Days, the official kickoff to the summer tourist season. But even before the festivities start, amateur sleuth Emma Blackwood stumbles upon a dead body. With no visible signs of violence, Deputy Cal determines the death is from natural causes, but Emma isn’t so sure. Why would a seemingly healthy woman drop dead? And what does the picture she was holding have to do with it? If Emma doesn’t solve this puzzle soon, a killer may get away with committing the perfect crime.

Coming September 28th! Preorders will be available soon!








More Hidden Treasures

More Hidden Treasures

Jaime Jo's post last week was so sweet, wasn't it? She shared some hidden treasures she found after her mother passed away. You can read that post HERE.

When I told her my dad had recently given me my own hidden treasure, she urged me insisted that I share it on my Seekerville post this month. "Sure!" I said. "That would be fun." (That may not be an exact quote.)

More Hidden Treasures

More Hidden Treasures


Unlike Jaime Jo's stellar works of fiction, my first book was non-fiction, done as a school assignment when I was in first grade. But the illustrations are priceless.

More Hidden Treasures

My name is Janet Tomlinson. I have four in my Family. 
I have a brother and a cat.

Other than spelling my last name wrong (it should be Tomlonson - I blame my teacher for the editing error) the story so far is pretty accurate. I wish I had included a picture of my cat.

In fact, this particular teacher stands out in my memory because of incidents like this one. I remember her insistence that my name should be spelled with an "I" rather than an "O." I don't like being corrected, especially when I know the person trying to correct me is wrong!
(And yes, that's still one of my more irritating personality traits - but I've learned to go with the flow unless it's something important.)

Which brings me to the topic for this post. Reading this early story of mine reminded me of the people along the way who stand out in my memory. Some for being encouragers and some for being discouragers.

My first grade teacher, Mrs. Taylor, was a discourager. I never did anything creative in her class. My third grade teacher, Miss Shields, was also a discourager. 

So why did I continue to write stories? Because of the encouragers.

I still remember them vividly, even though it has been more than fifty years since I've seen them: My second grade teacher, Mrs. Griffith; fourth grade, Mrs. VanVorhees; fifth grade, Mrs. Harrington.

Mrs. Harrington stands out because she saw potential in me and let me read. And read. And read. While the other students had reading groups, I had all the books I wanted to read. And tons of book reports.
*sigh* The cost of reading at my own pace. :-)

And to this day, whenever I see a Chickadee, I think of Mrs. Harrington - they were her favorite bird.

More Hidden Treasures

More Hidden Treasures

But my mom was my best encourager. I don't remember anything specific that she said or did, but I knew she had my back, as busy as she was with her day job.

More Hidden Treasures

My mother teaches. She teaches fourth grade. 
Her children are bad sometimes.
 

My mom instilled a love of reading in me. She also taught me the value of being a homemaker, even though as a pastor's wife in a small church, her full-time homemaking only happened during the summer months.

More Hidden Treasures

More Hidden Treasures


When my mother started feeling the effects of Alzheimer's, she still cheered me on as I taught my children in our homeschool. We talked often about how I was using my college education - my degree is in English with a Creative Writing Emphasis - and I knew she hoped that someday I would turn back to writing.

And God's timing is perfect - several years before she passed away, and just before she finally slipped into the enclosed dream world of advanced Alzheimer's, I sold my first story. She understood and celebrated with me as I told her that my story would be published in Woman's World Magazine.

More Hidden Treasures


Mom never got to read any of my published works other than my first book, written when I was six. But she kept those pages - as unwieldy as they are - and moved them from Michigan to Kansas to Indiana. They were among the treasures she kept.

These days, my dad is my biggest cheerleader.

More Hidden Treasures

More Hidden Treasures


He has been known to hang out in the Christian Fiction section of his local library and waylay browsers. "If you like Amish fiction, you should try my daughter's books."

More Hidden Treasures


Like Jaime Jo said, my first book is a Hidden Treasure. A testament of a mother's love and encouragement and a father's continued belief in his daughter.

Who are the encouragers in your life? How have they influenced your writing?

PS - I didn't leave my husband and children off this list to slight them. On the contrary - their encouragement (especially my dear husband's) is off the charts. :-)


Leave a comment to be in the drawing for an e-book copy of my next release, "The Case of the Artist's Mistake!" Due to be released September 14, 2022!

In this second Sweetbrier Inn Mystery, Emma discovers a local artist dead in her art gallery. Deputy Cal is convinced she died from natural causes, but he hasn't convinced Emma.

More details to follow in coming weeks!


Handling a Full Plate

Handling a Full Plate

A full plate is better than an empty one, right?


Today’s post is about time management (thanks to Audra for kicking this topic off!) but I’m going to stick to the food analogy for a few minutes, first.

At our church we have carry-in meals once a month. (Fellowship time is important!) When I go through the line, I’m always dazzled by the many choices! Casseroles, salads, breads, sometimes a pot of soup on a cold day, sometimes a delicious brisket (we live in ranching country.) Occasionally a main-dish salad, too. And then there are the desserts…

Handling a Full Plate

 
Do I hear any “Amens!?”

We all know that there is no way even a small spoonful of each one of those dishes is going to fit on our plates, but we fill them up anyway.

After all, a full plate is better than an empty one.

Except when the plate starts tipping and a bit of the jello fluff slides onto the floor…or the dinner roll perched on top takes a nosedive for someone else’s plate…or the tuna noodle casserole’s sauce insists on mingling with the oil and vinegar dressing on your lettuce….

Maybe there can be too much of a good thing!

My life is a bit like that. I know I’ve said “yes” to too many responsibilities, and when fall comes I’ll be adding another huge one back onto my plate. And then there is the possibility of a grandchild (or two) arriving in the next year or so. Each of those important things needs a spot on my plate.

How do I give all those responsibilities the attention they need? How do I keep any of them from falling off the plate? How do I make sure I accomplish what needs to be done WHEN it needs to be done?

Time management.

My favorite tool for time management is a planner. And my favorite planner is my Bullet Journal.

Why a planner?

Because our lives are full of details that need our full attention.

I used to just list the things I needed to do on my planner page in no particular order and without a lot of thought, but that could be so disheartening. My list was just too long, and what about the things I didn’t really want to do? Well, it’s easy to just move them to the next day’s list, and the next one, and the next one…

Then I discovered a new strategy: Divide and conquer!

Here’s a picture of my Bullet Journal page for last Friday. It takes me less than five minutes to put this page together in the evening and finish it up the next morning.

Handling a Full Plate

 
Do you see how I listed my priorities at the top? There are three of them. Keeping that list to three items is my #1 rule.

Then I divide my tasks into three areas: personal, home, and writing.

I try to list no more than three things in each of those areas, but sometimes the day is extra busy.

The colorful column on the right is where I divide my day into blocks. (I use color-coding to make everything easy to keep in order.) The numbers in that column correspond to the time of day.

If you look at the column, you can see that I’ve scheduled my writing tasks in three separate time blocks. 6:00 am to 7:30 am, 9:00 am to 11:30 am, and 12:30 pm to 3:00 pm. That’s a total of 6 ½ hours spent on writing and writing related tasks.

Now look at the items I’ve listed under “writing” on the left. I usually spend my first writing block putting words down in my WIP. My goal is 1000-1500 words during that block.

The second block is for more writing or tackling a sticky technical problem with my website or publishing.

The third block is for a variety of things. Sometimes I use that time for research. Sometimes for listening to podcasts or reading craft books. Sometimes for writing my newsletter content. Sometimes for writing a blog post.

The key? I know I’m more creative in the morning after my first cup of tea, so I use that to my advantage and do the most important thing first. I also know I tend to be a bit draggy in the afternoons – so that’s when I take care of tasks that require less concentration.

I do the same for the “personal” category and “home” category. I do those planned tasks during the times with the matching colors in my schedule.

Is this method perfect?

No, but it’s as close to perfect as I can get for me. You might find that a different kind of planner suits you better, or that a bunch of sticky notes on your computer screen’s frame is the perfect solution. The idea is to plan our time so that it doesn’t get frittered away.

Handling a Full Plate

 
Do I schedule every day this way?

Nope. I schedule my working days like this, but never Sunday, and I usually take another day off during the week for our “Saturday” chores and time off. This is a tool I use to make my work days go more smoothly.

Does this method work?

Yes, it does. When I have my day planned out like this, I tend to get most of the tasks accomplished, just like when I have a reasonable amount of food on my plate!

Handling a Full Plate


How about you? Are you a planner?

And here’s an interesting question: if you’re a planner, are you also a plotter in your writing? And if you aren’t a planner, are you a panster in your writing?

Let us know in the comments!  

And by the way, yesterday was a VERY SPECIAL DAY!!! My dear husband and I marked our 40th wedding anniversary. We're spending today enjoying some touristy things and enjoying time with each other. I'll be in and out to respond to comments, though!

Here's a picture of my mom and I on our special day:


Handling a Full Plate

I'm so glad the photographer took this picture, although I thought it was a little silly at the time. I had more important things on my mind, right? And I thought my mom would always be there...

Those Wascally Weasel Words


Those Wascally Weasel Words

 by Jan Drexler


Weasel words are the worst, aren’t they? The hardest part about them is that they sneak into our writing, and we don’t even see them when we read!

One culprit I struggle with in my writing are “thought” verbs. You know, “knew,” “wondered,” “realized,” “remembered,” “felt,” etc.

In preparing to write this post, I did a search for some of those verbs on my most recent book, The Sign of the Calico Quartz. I found a LOT of them!

Those Wascally Weasel Words

 
The word “knew” was in that manuscript thirty-four times. Some of those occurrences were in dialogue and I accept no responsibility for those – blame the characters! But the others? They could be changed to something stronger.


Let’s look at these sentences: 
By morning I was beginning to feel normal again and ready for a cup of Wil’s coffee. But as soon as I started down the stairs, I knew I was out of luck. No delicious rich coffee smell wafted from the kitchen.

How can I change that to get rid of those weasel words, “feel” and “knew?”

First, I need to change my mindset. I recently read in an essay that “Thinking is abstract. Knowing and believing are intangible. Your story will always be stronger if you just show the physical actions and details of your characters and allow your reader to do the thinking and knowing.” (Nuts and Bolts: “Thought” Verbs by Chuck Palahniuk)

Did you catch that? “…allow your reader…” When I use a verb like “knew,” I’m spoon-feeding my reader. And when I do that, what happens to that person’s experience? Where is the give and take between the reader and the author when the writing fails to demand that the reader take part in the conversation?

Those Wascally Weasel Words


Let’s take those sentences apart and rework them.

“By morning I was beginning to feel normal again and ready for a cup of Wil’s coffee.”

Emma is heading down the stairs on her way to the kitchen. She craves a cup of coffee. Not just any coffee, but the dark, rich, slightly bitter brew the chef makes every morning. Can I capture those thoughts of Emma’s and paint a picture for my readers?

I caught a glance of myself in the mirror as I left the room. My hair: combed. My clothes: not wrinkled or backwards. My smile: bright and chipper. As normal as could be. Except for one thing. Coffee.

Okay, I’m happy with that. I exchanged the word “feel” for narrative that invites the reader to use their imagination. What about the rest of the paragraph?

“But as soon as I started down the stairs, I knew I was out of luck. No delicious rich coffee smell wafted from the kitchen.”

On the top step I took a deep breath, anticipating the sweet aroma of Wil’s coffee. By the third step I could taste the rich notes of the slightly bitter brew. I pushed open the kitchen door, licking my lips as the dark liquid spilled into my cup, releasing its fragrance. I took a deep breath. And stopped. The kitchen was in shadows. No Wil. No breakfast cooking. I flicked my gaze to coffee maker in the corner. Unplugged. Cold. Empty.

Changing my writing in this way isn’t easy. In fact, it probably took me ten times as long to rewrite these sentences as it did to write them in the first place.

Because of that, this exercise isn’t for the first draft. This is the kind of rewriting to tackle during revisions. The first draft is to get the story down. The revision process is where you make your story sing.


Are you up for a challenge? Find a sentence in your own writing that needs to be revised. Then examine it word by word. Rewrite it as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Rewrite it as if you’re in your character’s head. Rewrite the action step by step. Then put it together in a way that induces your readers to see the actions or thoughts of your characters as if they’re experiencing it themselves.

That is the ultimate “show, don’t tell.”


Share your challenge with us! Did you rewrite a sentence from your own story? Post the before and after in the comments to be entered in the drawing for an e-book copy of The Sign of the Calico Quartz!

Those Wascally Weasel Words

Emma Blackwood’s favorite pastime is solving literary murder mysteries…until the body in her living room makes everything a little too real.
When Emma comes to the Black Hills to work at her Aunt Rose’s B&B, the Sweetbrier Inn, she is hoping for a quiet break from the corporate treadmill. But she hadn’t expected murder and intrigue to mar this peaceful setting.
As she wades through too many clues to identify the murderer, she soon finds that the culprit isn’t stopping at only one homicide and may even have placed Emma herself on the list of targets. With the help of her friend Becky, and a deputy sheriff who grudgingly lets them join in on the investigation, Emma tracks down the killer. But will it be in time to save the next victim?

Writing: Art or Business?

 

Writing: Art or Business?
Hello, Seekerville!

My husband and I (along with our youngest son) just returned yesterday afternoon from a trip east to visit family. From South Dakota to Iowa, to Indiana, to Michigan, to Minnesota, and then home. Nine days, 3000 miles. We're glad to be home again!

But in spite of all my planning, I had no internet access for the entire trip. The wi-fi card in my little traveling computer didn't work and my phone isn't set up to be my #1 computer. So my vacation was a true vacation, right? Except for the work I had been planning to do while we traveled, including writing today's Seekerville post. 

No worries! Welcome to Jan Drexler's blog from March 2015! I hope you enjoy it!

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Last year I joined our local writers group. It’s a secular group with a broad range of writing experiences and goals among the members. And like any group of writers, there are a lot of aspiring authors who come to learn and grow. Several of the members have had some success in the indie publishing field, but I’m the only regular attender who is traditionally published.

Writing: Art or Business?

The Prodigal Son Returns
Published by Love Inspired, May 2013
order HERE

That, plus the fact that I’m new means that they really aren’t sure about me yet. (That’s okay. Sometimes I’m not sure about them, either!)


One of the other members and I walked out to our cars together last month. She hadn’t realized before that meeting that I’m a published author with multiple contracts waiting to be fulfilled (i.e. I should spend all of my time writing!).

“How did you do it?” She thought she really wanted to know.

I hesitated for a half-minute. She wasn’t going to be happy with what I wanted to say, so I started with my standby answer for that question:

“I entered contests that put my name and my story in front of publishers and agents.”

Her eyes narrowed.

“You’re published by Harlequin, right?”

“Yes, by Love Inspired, Harlequin’s Inspirational line.”

She looked past my shoulder and unlocked her car door. “Don’t they have pretty strict guidelines? Don’t they make you change your story?”

“They expect you to make revisions to improve your story and so that it will fit their style. Every publisher does.”

She tossed her bag into her car. She said goodbye. She drove away. No, she didn’t really want to hear what I had to say.

If she had stayed around, ready to chat under the street lights on that unusually balmy February evening, I would have told her a secret.

Writing: Art or Business?

A Mother for His Children
Published by Love Inspired, August 2014
order HERE


Writing is an art. But once you hit the send button, it becomes a business.

When you’re in your writing cave, your story is all your own. It’s a wonderful thing to spend an hour or two every day in a world peopled by characters you’ve created. At this point, writing is all about imagination, craft, and answering the “What if?” questions.

I love this part of the process. It’s a little like giving birth, with all the pain, agony, and delight that accompanies bringing a new life into the world. It’s exhilarating! And it’s all yours!

But if you want to become a published author, once you’ve finished your story you need to switch modes. This story needs to have a life of its own.

Let’s take the birth analogy a little bit further. If you’ve raised children, you know that it is unhealthy (and impossible!) to force them to remain babies forever. They need to walk, to explore, to become separate people from their parents. As much as we delight in babies, we don’t want them to turn into some twisted copy of ourselves. We want them to become the people God intended them to be. To become adults.

The same goes for your story. If you have any desire to publish your work, you must put it out there for others to see. You have to listen to and evaluate comments from critique groups, contest judges, and eventually, potential agents and publishers. Why? Because these are the people who are helping your baby grow into a self-sufficient adult.

Writing: Art or Business?

A Home for His Family
Published by Love Inspired, September 2015
order HERE


Some authors hold on to their stories too tightly. They keep their writing snagged within their prideful grasp, thinking no one else understands their story like they do. They refuse to accept help to make it better, and they refuse to change anything to make it fit someone else’s standards.


If you want to be published, you won’t be that kind of author.
You’ll be the kind of author who understands that once you hit “send,” your story is now a business. Rather than keeping it close to your heart, you humbly open your hands and let it grow.

If an agent suggests that your story will sell better told in third person rather than first person, you start planning how to make that change and still keep the meat of your story intact.

When an editor sends you a list of revisions that need to be made and invites you to resubmit your story, you put everything else aside and make those changes.

When you get a request for a partial or full manuscript, you comply in a timely manner because that’s good business practice.

Soon you’ll find that those changes and revisions make your story stronger. More complete. Saleable.

Writing: Art or Business?

Hannah's Choice
Published by Revell 2016
order HERE


And when you see your book for the first time, you’ll cry. You really will. Because that’s what parents do when they see their babies all grown up.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *
Welcome back to 2022!

I'm still treating my writing as a business. Next week, on May 25, my first indie published book will be released! You can preorder it NOW!!! 

Writing: Art or Business?

Ebook is available for preorder now!

Emma Blackwood’s favorite pastime is solving literary murder mysteries…until the body in her living room makes everything a little too real.
When Emma comes to the Black Hills to work at her Aunt Rose’s B&B, the Sweetbrier Inn, she is hoping for a quiet break from the corporate treadmill. But she hadn’t expected murder and intrigue to mar this peaceful setting.
As she wades through too many clues to identify the murderer, she soon finds that the culprit isn’t stopping at only one homicide and may even have placed Emma herself on the list of targets. With the help of her friend Becky, and a deputy sheriff who grudgingly lets them join in on the investigation, Emma tracks down the killer. But will it be in time to save the next victim?


Which kind of author will you be? What do you need to do to move your writing from art to business? #NoLimits!

One commenter will win an ebook copy of "The Sign of the Calico Quartz!" 

A Story is Born

A Story is Born

How well do you remember two years ago? Somewhere in the middle of March 2020 was one of those moments that change history...for better or for worse.

Now that we've had some time to digest what has happened over the past two years (and it hasn't always been pretty!) it's time to look back with some clear hindsight and realize how these months have changed our writing.

I know I'm not alone in this: The pandemic-that-shall-not-be-named* wasn't the only life-changing event that happened in 2020. Many of us had earth shaking happenings in our personal lives, too. Things that weren't related to the PTSNBN* threw us out of our groove, shut down our creativity, and either stopped us in our tracks or caused us to change directions.

A Story is Born

For me it provided the excuse to take a complete change in direction. I needed something new. Something to jump-start my creativity and get me excited about writing again.

But where should I start? 

The first thing was to decide on a genre. I love historical romance, but I had been down that road. I needed something new.

I looked at my Goodreads list - what books had I been reading? Which ones had I enjoyed the most? I realized that I love cozy mysteries - not exclusively - but I love reading them. 

A Story is Born


So the next step? I decided to try writing one. And a story was born.



The first question - the genre - was already decided. 

The setting? Easy. I looked out my office window and knew the Black Hills was perfect.

A Story is Born

The characters? It didn't take long for me to have my cast. In a mystery you need a sleuth, a sidekick, a lawman/woman, an interesting antagonist, and the all important bad guy. I also added in a mentor and a couple pets who are too smart for their own good.

Emma Blackwood (the sleuth) is an unemployed hotel manager who comes to the Black Hills to work in her aunt's upscale bed and breakfast, the Sweetbrier Inn.

A Story is Born
Shutterfly

Emma is smart, capable, and just a little bit OCD.

Becky Graves, her sidekick, is a fabulous baker and is related to just about everyone who lives in the small town of Paragon. Part Lakota and part Irish, she claims her ethnic background is a blend of the best the world has to offer.

I gave Emma a fun antagonist, too. Wil Scott is Rose's business partner and the chef at the Sweetbrier Inn. He and Emma get along like a couple of siblings who can't put their rivalries aside, but Emma says his cooking is to die for. Her favorite breakfast is Wil's Crème Brulée French Toast.

The lawman in the story is County Deputy Sheriff Cal Cooper. He also happens to be Becky's cousin (didn't I tell you everyone in Paragon is related?) Cal is a no-nonsense guy who reluctantly lets Emma work the case with him.

Emma's mentor is her Aunt Rose. Rose has a mysterious past that keeps Emma guessing. Her warm personality sets the tone for the inn. From the early morning breakfasts to the daily afternoon teas, the inn is Rose's baby. 

The pets are Rose's corgi, Thatcher, and Emma's young black cat named Tim. Don't worry - they get along with each other just fine.

A Story is Born

The setting of the Sweetbrier Inn is perfect for a cozy mystery because the cast of characters keeps changing for each book in the series. I have one set of guests for the first book and a completely different set for the second. New characters = new suspects.

A Story is Born
Shutterfly

Wait - did I forget to mention the bad guy? Sorry. No spoilers here. He/she/they will remain a mystery until the end of the book!

A Story is Born

With the changes in my writing, I was basically giving my career a makeover. I've developed a new brand, a new logo, and am working on a new website. 

Another big change is that these new books will be indie published, so I created my own publishing company - Swift Wings Press - with its own completely unnecessary but fun logo.

A Story is Born

The last thing - after selecting an editor (thank you Beth Jamison!) cover artist (thank you Hannah Linder!) formatting, etc. etc. (all the details of indie publishing) - was to select titles.

I always have a hard time coming up with titles. Then I remembered some of my favorite mysteries, and I was on my way.

"The Sign of the Calico Quartz" is the first book in the Sweetbrier Inn Series. I've set the publication date for May 25, 2022. 

The next book is "The Case of the Artist's Mistake," which will be coming out late summer 2022.

The third book is still in the works, but be assured Emma, Becky, Cal, and the rest of the gang will catch the bad guy in that one, too.

A Story is Born

How did the past two years affect your writing? Did it feel like you ran into a brick wall or did you feel like you had new ideas and energy?

And if you're still struggling to make some sense of what you're supposed to be doing with your writing through all of this, let us know so we can pray you through the slump. One thing I do know - you are not alone!!!



Don't Coddle Your Darlings! Using Conflict in Our Stories

 

Don't Coddle Your Darlings! Using Conflict in Our Stories

I'm sure you've heard about the importance of letting a butterfly fight its way out of a cocoon without help - they must struggle or they will die. 
The same with chicks breaking out of an egg. Hatching is a process in which the chick fights and struggles...and rests...while it matures enough to live outside the shell.

The point is - struggle is natural. It's healthy. It's how things grow.

Think of a baby learning to walk: There's your little darling, so wobbly on those fat stumpy legs! Do you coddle that sweet thing? Not if you're wise. You let them try to take a step - fall - and try another step. Before you know it, you have a toddler!

Why am I repeating myself here? Because almost every author goes through the same thing - we have trouble bringing enough conflict into our stories. Softheartedness and compassion will cause us to coddle our darlings, but we must not let ourselves do it!

If we don’t let our characters go through tough times we won’t have a story.

Think of some of the great stories you’ve read or seen as a movie – we’ll look at one that most of us know: The Lord of the Rings – the movie version.

When we meet Frodo, he’s a likable sort of lad. He likes to read (a big plus!) and he’s good friends with a wizard. Life is good for Frodo, and before we’re very far into the story, he’s the lord of the manor.

Wouldn’t you love to live in the idyllic Shire? One big advantage is that everyone expects you to be a little chubby!

Except that nothing much happens. If the entire movie – okay, the entire trilogy – stayed in the Shire, following the day-to-day lives of Frodo and his friends… *yawn* … Can you imagine the extended version? Nine hours of watching hobbits eat?

The story doesn’t start until conflict enters in the form of the Black Riders coming to the Shire to find the Ring.

In my February post, (you can read it here) we started outlining a romance story. Our hero and heroine were Benjamin and Heather (no relation to Benjamin and Heather Drexler.)

Don't Coddle Your Darlings! Using Conflict in Our Stories
The day Heather Vetsch and Benjamin Drexler were married!

I started the plotting (using mirrored plot points to create a chiasm) and our own Debby Giusti moved the story along by adding a couple more plot points.

In the beginning of our story, Benjamin works for a company that produces accessible community playgrounds. He has selected the perfect site for the new playground and all he needs is permission from the planning commission.

Don't Coddle Your Darlings! Using Conflict in Our Stories

Heather is a teacher who loves children and wants the best for them. But she has heard about the planned playground and opposes it because of problems with the proposed site.

There’s the beginning of the conflict.

Remember, as much as we like our hero and heroine, we can’t coddle our darlings. We must ramp up the conflict.

Will our characters suffer? Yes.

Will they be better and stronger because of the suffering? Yes.

Don't Coddle Your Darlings! Using Conflict in Our Stories

 So, how do we find right conflict for these characters?

This is where character development comes in. We find the right conflict by delving into our characters’ pasts. We need to determine what happened in their past to give them a memory that they stuffed deep into a hole in their minds and won’t bring out again – until they’re faced with a situation that breaks their carefully constructed life into pieces.

One super-helpful resource for this process is The Story Equation by Susan May Warren.

Don't Coddle Your Darlings! Using Conflict in Our Stories

For Heather, it’s her dad’s death. He worked at the battery plant that was once on the piece of land earmarked for the playground. She is convinced that the cancer that killed him came from years of working in the toxic environment of the plant, but can’t prove it. Her goal is to prevent the city from using that piece of ground for anything until she can convince the EPA to test the area for lingering toxins.

For Benjamin, it’s his little brother who was born with spina bifida. His passion is to build playgrounds that are accessible for all kids. He has watched his brother shoved to the sidelines because there was no way for him to play safely while confined to a wheelchair. His goal is to provide a place for kids like his brother to have fun.

Do you see how their goals are heading in different directions? When they collide, that’s conflict!

And as the story goes along, there will be one conflict after another – just when we think we’ve reached a resolution, another twist comes along and ramps the conflict up again.

Meanwhile, as our characters face these conflicts they are growing and changing. Making decisions and living with the consequences. And by the end of the story, coming to a satisfying resolution.

Next month we’ll talk about resolving conflicts, and how some of the consequences of those resolutions can lead to more conflict.

Creating conflict for our characters is one of the hardest things for an author to do, especially when we're just starting out. But can never let ourselves be tempted to coddle our darlings!

Have you faced this problem in your writing? How did you solve it?


 

 

Deepening the Impact of Your Story With Chiasms

 

Deepening the Impact of Your Story With Chiasms


Let’s talk about story structure.

Readers and writers both know when a story feels “right.” What is it that gives us that feeling?

It’s when a story is constructed in a way that resonates with our souls.

Basic story structure is simple.

Deepening the Impact of Your Story With Chiasms

And it is the same pattern, no matter the genre.  

In a romance: boy meets girl, love blooms, conflicts happen that lead to near death of the relationship, a pivotal change happens in both characters, love grows, they face a major conflict together, they live happily ever after.

In an adventure story: the hero is called to action, he/she makes mistakes pursuing the quest, he/she has a virtual death/rebirth experience, faces the quest with renewed vigor, slays the virtual (or real) dragon, he/she lives happily ever after.

In a mystery: the sleuth is faced with a crime, the sleuth pursues the bad guy without success, the sleuth has a pivotal change happen in his/her life, the sleuth tracks down the bad guy and wins, he/she lives happily ever after.

Basic story structure! It works!

But…how can you deepen your readers’ experience? How can you add depth to your story that will make it resonate even more fully?

This literary device is key.

A literary device sounds like it might be a trick, but it isn’t anything sneaky. It’s a smart and subtle way to add substance to your story. If you’re a word-geek like me, take some time to study classical rhetoric. You’ll be blown away by the possibilities when you consciously add literary devices to your writing.

The Greek term for this literary device is “chiasm.” (pronounced ki-AZ-um)

Basically, it’s a form of writing that states a truth or tells a story in a structure we can describe as
 A-B-C-B-A.

The Bible is full of chiasms, and this illustration might help you understand what they are - Let’s take Jesus’ statement in Matthew 11:18-30. I’m using the NASB, but the structure is the same in any translation.

            A. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden

                B. and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you,

                    C. and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart;

                B. and you shall find rest for your souls.

            A. For my yoke is easy, and My load is light.
 

Do you see how the A statements are related? The same with the B statements?

The connected statements reflect and reinforce each other, then the C, or central statement, is the pivot point.



How does this relate to our writing?

Take a look at this expanded story diamond:

Deepening the Impact of Your Story With Chiasms

 
See the arrows that connect the plot points? If I wrote this out using the same method as the Bible passage above, it would look like this:

                A. Inciting Incident

                    B. Plot Pivot One

                        C. Twist One
    
                            D. The Pivotal Scene, or Moment of Grace

                        C. Twist Two

                    B. The Black Moment

                A. Plot Pivot Two, or the Final Battle



So, what does this look like when we’re writing a story?

These are the major plot points to start with when we construct our story.

        A - A  The Inciting Incident reflects and reinforces the Final Battle.

        B - B  Plot Point One reflects and reinforces the Black Moment.

        C - C  Twist One reflects and reinforces Twist Two.



Let’s see how this works using two of the connected plot points in our chiasm. We'll use a romantic plot:

In the Inciting Incident, Benjamin and Heather meet at a county planning commission meeting. He’s there to ask permission to build a playground on Lot A at the edge of town, and she’s there to convince the planning commission to deny permission.

So, what happens in the Final Battle? Benjamin and Heather, now firmly united in love, join forces to convince the planning commission to give permission to build the playground on Lot B on the other end of town (rather than on top of the toxic former battery plant location on Lot A.)

Do the two plot points reflect and reinforce each other? Yes!

Do you see how when these two plot points are related to each other, the story comes around full circle and closes the circle? 

Do you see how closing that circle gives your reader the satisfying story conclusion that makes her get all teary-eyed and smiling at the end?

Plotting a story isn't easy, but then, what part of writing is? I like to look at plotting as a puzzle - a puzzle that lends speed and ease to the actual writing process because when you have the plot points laid out, you know the story is going to work.

So let's play with this puzzle in the comment section. How would you connect the other two plot-point-pairs in our story about Benjamin and Heather?

When you play the brain-storming game with us (or make any comment,) you'll be entered in a drawing for one of my Love Inspired Historical Amish romances. Your choice of title!

Deepening the Impact of Your Story With Chiasms

Thanks for playing with us today!



Three Steps to Becoming a Successful Author

 

Three Steps to Becoming a Successful Author

Really? Can it be that simple? Only three steps?

Seekervillagers aren’t that gullible! You know that becoming a successful author is a long, laborious process.

But these three steps are key to getting you to where you want to go.

Three Steps to Becoming a Successful Author


First, be teachable.

Being teachable means that you are willing to learn...even if that learning comes after an ouch of a critique, or you feel like your toes have been stepped on.

Being teachable means that you are willing to open your eyes to a new way of looking at things.

Being teachable means that you ask for advice, then consider that advice, and follow it if it's valuable.

Being teachable means being willing to change your opinion. And I know how hard that can be!

An example? I'm in the process of developing covers for my soon-to-be released cozy mystery series (and my first venture into Indy publishing!) I designed a few covers that I liked. In fact, I liked them a lot. I ran them past a few people that I could trust to be honest with me, asking for feedback.

I got the feedback! Especially from my daughter. My other friends (thank you Seekerville ladies!) were polite and they gave some useful suggestions. My daughter didn't worry about being polite. She told me point-blank what she thought. (Both approaches are needed and appreciated!)

I took all the suggestions - the polite ones as well as the not-so-polite - and went back to the drawing board. And I LOVE the result. It's much better than my first fifteen or so versions!

I'm so glad I remained teachable throughout this process, and I'm pleased with the final (or nearly final) version of my cover. You'll have to wait a couple months for the official cover reveal, but here's the series logo to give you a taste:

Three Steps to Becoming a Successful Author

Second, be gracious.

Being gracious means promoting other authors as often as you can.

Being gracious means NOT responding to that unfair and wicked negative review, no matter how much you want to.

Being gracious means meeting deadlines and responding to your business emails in a timely fashion.

Being gracious means extending grace to others in all circumstances.

This is one of those things I'm constantly working on in myself. I don't think any of us are naturally gracious (although Debby comes close!) and learning to be gracious is harder to learn for some of us than for others.

Graciousness is a close cousin of humility. It's easier to be gracious when we're humble.


Three Steps to Becoming a Successful Author

Third, be an active learner.

Being an active learner means that you seek out places to learn your craft - and Seekerville is a good place to start.

Being an active learner means that if there is a skill set you don't have, you learn it. (Although at times what you learn is when you need to hire someone else to do that particular skill!)

Being an active learner means that you don't rely on others to spoon-feed you. There are basic skills an author has to have - negotiating the internet, knowing how to use Word, knowing how to write a synopsis/blurb/back cover copy/etc. Learn those things for yourself. Don't rely on someone else to do them for you. 

Being an active learner means that you are constantly learning. You're reading new releases in your writing genre. You're researching details for your next WIP. You're reading a craft book that an author you respect has recommended. You're reading blog posts by agents and publishers. You're listening to podcasts on every subject from how to structure a story to how to build your website.

Something else being an active learner does for you is to keep your mind young and your life engaged. Studies have shown that learning something new is the best way to keep the synapses in your brain active and pliable, so keep learning! 

Three Steps to Becoming a Successful Author

This short list is just a beginning. There is much more to being a successful author than what I've mentioned here, but it is a start. And if you keep these things in mind, you're on your way!

What do you think? Are there steps that you would add to move us along the path to success?

And be sure to come by Seekerville on Wednesday to catch Debby Giusti's list for a successful author - the two of us were thinking along the same lines this week!


Three Steps to Becoming a Successful Author

One more thing! The re-release of A Home for His Family is coming next week! Click on the picture above to preorder from Amazon, or head over to my website for ordering links: www.JanDrexler.com 




A Carol of Christmas

A Carol of Christmas

 

Silent Night, Holy Night. All is Calm, all is Bright…


Are you humming the tune to yourself? It’s the ultimate Christmas song, isn’t it?

What is it about this hymn that speaks so well to that deep place in our souls?

Maybe it’s the image the words invoke – the stable, the joyful receiving of a newborn baby, the night filled with stars –

Maybe it’s the nostalgia. How many Christmases have you sung this song at a Candlelight Service at church? How many idle moments spent humming the tune?

Just hearing the opening bars takes me back to a cold Christmas Eve at least sixty years ago and a snowflake-filled sky. The hymn spans the time and brings that scene to mind once more.

A Carol of Christmas

 
It’s all of that, isn’t it? 
But when I think of this Christmas hymn, it is the poetry that speaks to my heart the most.

Silent. Holy. Calm. Bright.

Mother and Child.

The Child? A baby.

But not just any baby – this baby is the Savior of the World.

This baby is the long-awaited Messiah.

And then another tune comes to mind…

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given. So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.

A Carol of Christmas

The Hope of mankind, given so humbly. So silently. So gently.


During this Christmas week I intend to put away the trappings that have been distracting me since the end of November. Shopping, wrappings, trees, baking (endless baking!) Even Christmas parties and church preparations.

Putting them all away for now because the time of preparation is nearly over.

Christmas Day is nearly here… It’s time to let silent contemplation have its way.

A Carol of Christmas


Joy to the World! Our Lord is come!

Have a blessed and joy-filled Christmas!
A Foray into Hybrid PublishingMore Hidden TreasuresHandling a Full PlateThose Wascally Weasel WordsWriting: Art or Business?A Story is BornDon't Coddle Your Darlings! Using Conflict in Our StoriesDeepening the Impact of Your Story With ChiasmsThree Steps to Becoming a Successful AuthorA Carol of Christmas

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