Seekerville: The Journey Continues | category: Writing Tips | (page 5 of 6)


Seekerville: The Journey Continues

Kiss and Tell (part two): Creating a Swoonilicious Kiss

Kiss and Tell (part two): Creating a Swoonilicious Kiss

Happy FRIDAY, Seekerville! Let's just ignore the fact that it's Friday the 13th and talk about something much more pleasant: KISSES. Specifically, KISSES in fiction. 

Ever since I fell in love with the story of Cinderella, I've been in love with "KissingBooks" (if you're a Princess Bride fan, you probably get the reference). When I started blogging about Christian and clean fiction, KissingBooks quickly became my most popular series of posts. Romance is still a hot genre (pardon the pun) and reading Christian & clean romance doesn't mean we have to sacrifice passion. After all, God created passion and romance and, when in the proper context, the expression of that passion glorifies him. Of course there are certain lines that we don't want to cross in fiction (or in life) but within these parameters Christian authors write a wide range of sweet kisses to smokin' smooches and everything in between!

Much like I did in my last Seekerville post (where I profiled my fave book boyfriends and what makes them swoonilicious), today I'm going to look at my four fave kissing scenes and analyze what they have in common and why they're so swoonilicious!

Let's look at the kisses first! 

(These are in no particular order, by the way)

Cue the romantic music ...

Kiss and Tell (part two): Creating a Swoonilicious Kiss  Kiss and Tell (part two): Creating a Swoonilicious Kiss

Fave Kiss #1: David & Catherine's first kiss in The Thorn Keeper by Pepper Basham - A storage closet, a reformed bad girl, and a dashing British doctor. "'Heaven help me, you taste like Christmas!' She breathed between them, keeping her mouth close enough to feel the warmth of his breath."

Fave Kiss #2: Carl & Annalisa's rain kiss in The Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund - "His gaze didn’t waver from her lips, even when he reached up both hands – one on either side of her face – and intertwined them into the long damp strands of her hair."

Fave Kiss #3: Katie & Luke's office kiss in A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman - "The taste of her lips was far more than he bargained for, and he drew her close with a raspy groan."

Fave Kiss #4: Vance & Violet's alcove kiss in The Cautious Maiden by Dawn Crandall - "'Violet,' he repeated quickly, between kisses and labored breaths, his hands still pressed against the small of my back. 'Violet, you have no idea -'" 

Kiss and Tell (part two): Creating a Swoonilicious Kiss  Kiss and Tell (part two): Creating a Swoonilicious Kiss 

What do these four fave kisses have in common?

1. Emotion. Raspy voices, the inability to breathe, trembling hands. There is more driving these kisses than merely attraction. Something connects the two kissees (is that a word?) on an almost soul-deep level, and that emotion results in some pretty passionate kisses! The sense of knowing this person is different, this person is your person, this person is 'the one' - and the raw need to communicate that to him/her when words fail you

2. Worth the Wait. This often goes hand-in-hand (or lip-to-lip?) with 'emotion' but each of these kisses was fueled by a need that had been continually repressed for one reason or another. Whether it is because they've been kept apart by distance or misunderstanding, or because the hero (or heroine) is trying to do the noble thing and resist the relationship. Whatever the reason, once the decision to smooch has been made, there is no longer any holding back! (And when I say 'no holding back', I'm still just talking kisses here. No bedroom shenanigans!)

3. Cherished. Passion notwithstanding, these kisses come from a heart that cherishes the other person, the relationship, the emotion, the act of the kiss. It's not so much about taking as it is about giving, about somehow telling this person without words how much he/she means to you. Because you can't find the words to adequately describe your heart toward him/her (back to 'emotion' again)

4. Passion. Yep. I went there. These aren't mere brushes of the lips (although there's certainly a place for that too). These are 'pucker up and turn on the a/c' kinds of kisses. The kind that make you want to say "WOWZA" out loud while you're reading. (And sometimes you do and then you get funny looks.) Now, please don't misunderstand. A passionate kiss doesn't have to be hot n' heavy and full of sparks and sizzle. Sometimes, the most passionate kiss is the one that comes from a gentle heart full of more love than that heart can contain. But it still has passion, no matter how quiet.

Again, take my advice with a grain of salt. I'm just one reader with her own preferences. But I will say that these four kisses always come up in 'favorite kiss discussions' and not just from me haha! So there is something about them that appeals to a wide variety of readers, and I think these four characteristics (Emotion, Worth the Wait, Cherished, Passion) are a good start in figuring out what makes them so memorable.

Authors: What do you find most difficult about writing a swoony kiss?
Readers: What are some of your favorite book kisses?

Let me know in the comments & you'll be entered to win ONE BOOK of your choice from one of the four books I featured today in my fave kisses.

Giveaway is open internationally, provided Book Depository has the book of your choice and ships to your location. Void where prohibited by law.

RUE the Day We Don’t Respect Our Readers

Missy Tippens

Rue the day we don’t respect our readers. And by RUE, I mean R.U.E.

RUE the Day We Don’t Respect Our Readers

R.U.E. =  Resist the urge to explain.

RUE is a note I have often seen in the margins of my critiqued manuscripts. I used to be a part of a critique group that met weekly in person. We each had our own gifts to contribute. Lindi Peterson had a knack for looking at the overall story arc. Meg Moseley was known for helping figure out plot problems. And Maureen Hardegree, our English major in the group, was known for helping us with grammar and mechanics. She was the one who often had to write RUE in my margins. I can still picture it in purple or pink ink. :)

I tended to explain things I had already shown, and still fall into that trap. This problem is the equivalent of knocking the reader over the head with something they’ve probably already gotten. Don’t you roll your eyes when you read something like this:

Example: The man grabbed Pam’s arm. She wrenched herself from his grasp and bolted away, cries for help ripping from her throat. She was terrified.

Reader response: Well, duh. Yes, of course she was terrified. I knew that the instant the man grabbed her arm. And if I hadn’t gotten a clue at that point, then I most certainly knew when she ran away screaming.

The fix: This is a matter of show vs tell. In that example, I both showed, and then told immediately after. (Like I said above, it’s like hitting them over the head with a club just to make sure they got it.) In this example, just delete the second, telling sentence. Let the first one shine and do its job.

Let’s not insult our readers. Let’s trust them. I know as a reader, I really appreciate subtlety. I get a sort of thrill when I catch on to something quickly—like I’m an insider. I love being so in tune with a character that I understand a funny comment or chuckle at a thought (and gleefully think to myself that I’m really quick on the uptake because I got it). Well, in reality, I’ve been given that experience by a skillful author who pulled me into her/his world and made me feel like a special participant. I’m probably not as clever as I thought. LOL But still, it’s a great feeling! (Thank you, skillful authors who have given me that feeling of being in your characters’ inner circle!)

That inclusiveness, that bond with readers should be our goal.

RUE the Day We Don’t Respect Our Readers

We need to R.U.E. in dialogue as well as in our scenes.

Example: Mindy rolled her eyes and threw the book against the wall. “Okay, I get it already. I got it the third time you told me,” she said, frustrated at the author for beating her over the head with the information for the third time.

[Note: I had too much fun writing that example!!! LOL]

Reader response: Um, didn’t you just say the same thing twice?
Critique partner response: a big “RUE” in red in the margin!

The fix: Delete that whole last part, so that it reads:
Mindy rolled her eyes and threw the book against the wall. “Okay, I get it already. I got it the third time you told me.”

Her actions are obviously from frustration. And you don’t even need the dialogue tag. The rolling eyes and throwing the book serve as an action tag.

We need to R.U.E. in the descriptive details and dialogue tags we choose to use.
 Example: Ruthy opened the heavy front door and stepped into the living room. 
“There you are. Did you finish feeding the animals?” Beth asked. 
Ruthy stomped the icy cold snow off her well-worn work boots, marched across the plush new cream-colored carpet, and then picked up the fireplace poker with her hand. She opened the door to the brand new wood burning stove and gave the embers a quick poke. The flames roared to life in sparks of red and yellow, heating up her small frozen hands—hands that looked so much like her grandmother’s she sometimes wondered if she was more like her than she thought. Then she turned to answer her daughter’s question. “Yes. All done. Is dinner ready? I’m starving!” she said excitedly just as her stomach growled.

Reader response: Huh? What was the daughter’s question again??
Critique partner response (as her head spins): I think maybe you got a little carried away trying to set the scene. What’s important here?

The fix: Okay, this example was loaded! LOL
--You do want to set the scene. And details can be nice. But if someone just asked a question, then you can’t go on for too long before answering (unless you’re doing that intentionally to show character hesitation). You don’t want the reader to have to go back to re-read to remember the question.

--You also don’t need to tell EVERY. LITTLE. DETAIL. Not of someone walking across the room and stoking a fireplace! (Oh, my, but I’ve been so guilty of this!) Unless the plush carpet and new fireplace are important (had the character just won the lottery or received an inheritance?), you probably don’t need all those details either. Choose details carefully. Use them to reveal character. Use them to show contrast.

--Watch for repetition and unnecessary telling. If she picks up the fireplace poker, it’s pretty obvious that it’s with her hand. :) You also don’t need to say she turned to answer—right before she answers. And you don’t need to say she answered excitedly if you’ve just used excited dialogue with an exclamation point!! (I couldn’t resist.)

--Also, the way this character goes on without answering makes the reader think something is wrong. If it’s not, then you’ve built up false expectation. And again, when you focus so on details, you make the reader think they’re important for some reason. R.U.E. also includes not telling or showing more than you need to tell or show. So let me take a stab at a fix for this example assuming Ruthy has no problems with Beth:

Ruthy opened the heavy front door and stepped into the living room. 
 “There you are. Did you finish feeding the animals?” Beth asked. 
 “Yes. All done.” Ruthy stomped the icy snow off her well-worn work boots and hurried to the wood burning stove. (I kept this detail because it’s good characterization. We know our Ruthy is a hard worker!) A quick poke, and the flames roared to life, heating up her hands—hands that looked so much like her grandmother’s she sometimes wondered if she was more like her than she thought. (I would leave this for foreshadowing, but only if it will come into play later.) “Is dinner ready?” she asked just as her stomach growled.

I also considered leaving the plush carpet to show contrast with the dirty work boots. But I didn’t think it was needed in this scene. I think it could be more powerful to use that contrast in a scene where maybe the character is uncomfortable. And this character is not uncomfortable in her own home. Now, take her and her wet work boots and plop her in the parlor of a mansion, and I might like to use that plush carpet detail.

I hope you had fun with these examples. While writing this post, I was re-reading some chapters in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. They include a section on R.U.E. in the chapter on Show and Tell. They point out to always check your manuscript for emotion words that are outside of dialogue. I think that’s a great check to do. I know when Janet critiques for me, she often finds those places.

Granted, sometimes we choose to use narrative summary (telling). So don’t feel like you have to delete every example. Just make sure you’ve left them there for a purpose (for example pacing or summarizing something that doesn’t deserve its own scene). And make sure you're not telling something twice!

I’ve found that in first drafts, when I’m moving very quickly, I’ll make the mistake of repeating myself with telling right after showing. I think it comes from not thinking too much as I'm blooping the words out on the page. That's to be expected on a rough draft. But when those mistakes remain after polishing, I think it comes from lack of confidence.

Just like we have to trust our readers to “get it,” we also have to trust ourselves to show it or tell it. Don’t be afraid to let your words stand. Trust yourself and trust your readers. It’ll make for a better book!

I'd love to hear your experience. As readers, have you felt that wonderful bond with characters so that you felt like an insider? Have you also experienced that feeling of being beaten over the head by a story? Let's chat!

RUE the Day We Don’t Respect Our Readers

After more than 10 years of pursuing her dream of publication, Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, made her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, Holt Medallion, ACFW Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, and the Romance Writers of America RITA® Award. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.com


Selling Without Bragging

By Guest Blogger Laurie Schnebly Campbell

Selling Without Bragging
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Most of us grew up knowing it’s not polite to brag about ourselves. Not just ourselves, but also our work / our family / our home / our good fortune. And when we have the good fortune to complete a book worthy of publication, all too often the reminder of “Boast not thyself” stops us from bragging about what we’ve achieved.

Maybe our inner promoter argues that it’s NOT boasting if we’ve created a book that other people will love. If that’s the case we’re doing the world a favor by making it possible for them to read our book, right?

Even so, pitching an editor or agent is still something a lot of writers dread.

Of course there are ways to avoid ever doing a face-to-face pitch, and for anyone who can’t stand the idea of meeting an editor or agent in person -- “I’d just be too nervous!” -- contests and queries and Twitterfests all work fine.

But for writers who are going to a conference where editors and agents will be actively looking for books they can make into best-sellers, pitching is an extremely useful tool.

Are you thinking about it?

If so, you already know the basics. You want to tell them about your work in a way that’ll convince ‘em “I absolutely must read this person’s manuscript the minute I get back to work!”

But there might be a few things standing in your way.

Selling Without Bragging
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This is far and away the biggest problem. Writers aren’t known for being the most extroverted people in the world -- otherwise how could we possibly spend so much time alone at the keyboard? -- so sitting down with a Big Important Person who has the power to Make This Book A Bestseller can be a scary prospect.

There are seven techniques for dealing with fear, both during the actual pitch and also before you ever show up at the conference. (We’ll go over all of those next month in my Perfect Pitch class.)


Selling Without Bragging
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If the book is still in your mind but there’s nothing on your hard drive yet, it’s a bit harder to convince the editor or agent that you’ve created exactly the story readers worldwide have been waiting for. Conversely, if it’s ready to send the minute they say “okay,” or if you can confidently say it’ll be ready to send as of two months from today, the pitch is a whole lot easier.

And if you’re not sure WHEN the finished manuscript will be ready, you might want to just use the time for getting a feel of what this person likes. You can spend your appointment time asking for advice on your query, discussing your favorite of the books they’ve been involved with, and leaving them with an impression of you as someone they’ll enjoy hearing from again once your book is complete.


Selling Without Bragging
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For writers who are specifically targeting a certain type of reader-- those who want cozy mysteries featuring a chef, or inspirational Regency romance, or middle-grade adventure, or whatever -- it’ll be no problem defining who’s gonna love your book.

But what if the answer to “who’s this book for?” is something like “uh, well, everyone who can read English,” that’s a clue it’s time for some homework.

Sure, a few writers will say it’s the AGENT’s job to know that -- THEIR only responsibility is getting the story down on paper. Still, an agent will be much more impressed with a writer who’s willing to help them do their job by explaining right up front what audience will be interested in the book.


Selling Without Bragging
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We’ve all heard four-year-olds trying to describe the plot of, say, The Three Little Pigs. “So the pig had a hammer. And there’s some wood. There’s another pig who’s eating popcorn. One of the pigs had a hat on. Oh, and the wolf comes! They made a house out of wood. The pig with popcorn doesn’t see the wolf.” And so on.

Clearly these four-year-olds haven’t spent much time analyzing the characters or the plot or the resolution, and there’s no reason they should. But all too often, we authors wind up in the same boat. WE know the story so well, and we love it so much, we can’t help wanting to tell the listener all the most wonderful details.

And the listener is baffled. That’s why it’s crucial to outline your answers to the Four Big Questions -- which, again, we’ll cover in class -- before ever sitting down to describe your story.


Selling Without Bragging
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You might have a fabulous description in mind already. Your critique partner loves it. Your family loves it. The lady behind you in line at Costco loves it. But none of them was keeping an eye on the clock while they listened.

If you’re guaranteed all the time you want with an editor or agent, this won’t be a problem. If you’re at a conference where appointments are limited to a specific duration, though, make sure you time yourself during the “rehearsal.” For what it’s worth, the average person speaking aloud can deliver about 140 words per minute -- so keep that in mind as you plan. And don’t forget to allow time for the listener to ask questions!


Here’s one for you: What are some helpful “Do's or memorable “Don’t's you’ve heard (or experienced yourself) when it comes to pitching?

Share those with whoever’s reading, and you might be the winner of free registration to Perfecting Your Pitch, coming up from June 3-14.

I can’t wait to hear some useful -- and entertaining -- advice!

Selling Without Bragging
Selling Without Bragging


After winning Romantic Times‘ “Best Special Edition of the Year” over Nora Roberts, Laurie Schnebly Campbell discovered she loved teaching every bit as much as writing...if not more. Since then she’s taught online and live workshops for writers from London and Los Angeles to New Zealand and New York, and keeps a special section of her bookshelves for people who’ve developed that particular novel in her classes. With 43 titles there so far, she’s always hoping for more.

Conflict and Tension, Part 4

Melanie Dickerson here. I hope y’all aren’t tired of my posts about Conflict and Tension, but I thought I needed to do one last discussion on HOW to add appropriate Conflict and Tension in your stories.

I have to admit, when I’m plotting, I don’t like making an outline or even filling out a worksheet on my characters or my plot. I have done the worksheet thing, and even created my own Plotting Worksheet, but I find that it doesn’t really help me. I have to work out my plot and characters in my head.

One thing I don't have trouble with is getting my characters to fall in love. The hard part is keeping them apart long enough. But that's a blog post for another time.
Conflict and Tension, Part 4
I also have trouble explaining my process, or even understanding what my process is! Sigh. I’m not methodical. At all. But, having said that, I think talking about certain aspects of your characters can help you figure out ways to create and add to the conflict in your story. 

We’ve already talked a little about the need for conflict. No conflict equals a very boring story. Every story must have conflict and tension or there is no story. But how do you create a conflict that works for your story?

Look at what you already have. I tend to start with a character that I know a few things about, then pick a fairy tale (when I’m writing my fairy tale retellings), and just let my imagination take it wherever seems fun, interesting, and romantic.

When I was coming up with The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest, I remember I was thinking about fairy tales and familiar stories I might want to use as a basis for a story. I decided I wanted to take two stories and mesh them together. I started thinking about Robin Hood versus the person in charge of the forest. That would be instant conflict. What if my Robin Hood was a woman who was killing deer to feed the poor, and the hero was the forester who was in charge of catching poachers? And then I thought of Swan Lake. What if the forester fell in love with the “Swan” character from Swan Lake and [spoiler alert!] ended up shooting her? Just like in the Swan Lake story, the hero is in love with the heroine but doesn’t know her true identity. And then, when she’s in her alternate state—not a swan, but a poacher—he shoots her, then immediately realizes he’s shot the girl he’s in love with! Lots of angst and drama and CONFLICT!

That’s an example of something I learned from Mary Connealy many moons ago on the Seekerville blog, which is: Give the hero and heroine competing goals, or competing occupations.

So if you already know what occupation you want one of your main characters to have, then give their love interest an opposing occupation. An oil driller will fall in love with an environmentalist. A mayor will fall in love with a political protester. An aristocrat will fall in love with a poor governess (Jane Eyre). A duchess will fall in love with her betrothed’s brother (The Fairest Beauty). A margrave who disapproved of his brother falling in love with a servant will himself fall in love with a servant girl disguised as an aristocrat (The Beautiful Pretender).

I could go on and on but you get the picture.

Conflict and Tension, Part 4

Another way of adding conflict is to think about your main characters’ greatest fear and force them to face it. Do you know your main characters’ greatest fears? Do you know their goals? Their motivations? What happened to them when they were children that scarred them and gave them their greatest fears? This is all great stuff to use to create conflict and tension. And it’s not enough to know what their goal is. You have to know WHY that’s their goal, what their motivations are.

Does your character have trust issues? Use that. Do they have issues with rejection and abandonment? You can use that. What is their greatest strength? You can even use that, especially if their strength becomes a weakness by causing them to be prideful about that one thing. Make sure you challenge their strengths and weaknesses. You can use events, circumstances, the villain, or the other main character to do this.

As an example of the characters’ greatest fears causing conflict . . . In A Viscount’s Proposal, the conflict comes from the hero’s disapproval of the heroine, as well as her fear of marrying someone who wouldn’t feel any passion or genuine love for her, since that’s the kind of marriage her parents have. The hero’s stuffiness and arrogance, as well as his disapproval of the heroine, come from his fear of scandal—his father was embroiled in a scandal that got him killed when the hero was just a boy, which also led to his mother’s death. You can imagine their horror when, toward the middle of the story as they get to know each other, they each begin to feel an attraction for the other. Their fears are still there, so there’s lots of inner conflict now. Their trust issues also come into play, creating more tension and conflict.

So, your turn. How do you come up with conflict in your stories? If you’re having trouble coming up with enough conflict in your current WIP, have you mined their worst fears? Their goals and motivations? Their childhood scars and traumatic events? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.

And if you're on Goodreads, I would love it if you would add my Aladdin retelling, The Orphan's Wish, to your Want to Read shelf!

Conflict and Tension, Part 4

Writing What You Know...and What You Don't Know

Missy Tippens and Guest Connie Mann

Writing What You Know...and What You Don't Know

Missy: I’m excited to welcome my friend Connie Mann today to help me with this post. When I started considering writing a post about how I’ve recently written on a subject I don’t know much about, I decided to balance that with input from someone who writes what she knows. I could think of no better example of that than author and boat captain Connie Mann. We’re going to have a “chat” today for our post. A fun back and forth as we discuss writing what we know…and what we don’t know.

Connie: Prevailing wisdom says you should write what you know. And that can be good advice. Especially if you’re just starting out on the writing journey, and there is so much to learn, so many moving parts to navigate and coordinate, that not having to worry about major research into, say, microbiology, makes sense. But at any stage of the journey, this tactic helps streamline the process, allowing you to focus more on the other parts of the story.

[Missy: Wait! You just happened to name my former career. And I’ve written a character who is a microbiologist!]

Connie: Of course, you did! If that was my background (insert wide-eyed fascination), I would have, too! But writing what you know comes with its own pitfalls. I’ve been a USCG-licensed boat captain for over 12 years and when I’m not writing romantic suspense, I pilot a pontoon boat for the Silver River Museum and take local schoolchildren on the River Silver. 

If I’m not paying attention, I could easily spend the day on the River and never really notice the wildlife around me. “Oh, another alligator.” Yawn. 

Writing What You Know...and What You Don't Know
(photo credit: Canva)

Connie: You wouldn’t think so, but it can happen. I never want to lose my joy in introducing children to nature and watching them get excited about the world around them. And that largely stems from my attitude—and from consciously seeing the world through their eyes.

We can slip into that same familiarity blindness with our writing. If your story is set in your hometown, or involves your career or hobby, what are the quirky, unique, or cool details about it that will appeal to readers and make it come alive? Or is it so familiar that it doesn’t register anymore?

This happened to me several weeks ago. I walked out by the lake and saw about a bazillion tadpoles. They looked like a dark cloud in two inches of water. I whipped out my cell phone and took a video. After I’d posted it on social media, someone commented how much they also enjoyed hearing all the birds. Wait, birds? I didn’t hear any birds. I replayed the video, and sure as shooting, there they were, singing their little hearts out. I hadn’t heard them. They’d become part of the background wallpaper of my life. And that made me more determined than ever to pay attention.

So, if you ‘write what you know,’ make sure you think through the telling details that make whatever it is unique and interesting and memorable.

Missy: Connie, I love these tips! I tend to write small southern towns. In creating my fictional towns, I envision small towns I’ve lived in or near—with the central courthouse and shops around a town square. Here's one I often picture...

Writing What You Know...and What You Don't Know
Photo by Missy Tippens-- Dahlonega, GA courthouse

But I haven’t thought much about the sounds. Now that you made me close my eyes and consider what I may have heard in the past, I realized there have sometimes been trains! I need to add this detail next time…the whistle of a train late at night in the distance.

Connie: Oh, I love that detail. There is something very lonely about a train whistle at night. Great way to set a mood. 

But on the flip side, sometimes we write what we don’t know, and it can be a scary place. I am doing this now and I’m constantly worried I’m going to get everything wrong. (Anyone?)

[Missy raises hand.]

Connie: My new series with Sourcebooks comes out next year and centers around Florida Fish & Wildlife Officers. I had met several officers through my job and thought it would be a cool series—cops, with a bit of a different, more outdoorsy twist.

But after I spent hours and hours watching videos and doing online research, I realized I still didn’t know enough to portray them even close to accurately. So, enter the scary part: accepting that I needed to get out of my writing cave and go talk to an actual FWC officer. Gulp. Instead of cold calling the office, I employed my favorite (i.e. less scary) research tactic. I called a few guys I know and asked, “Do you know someone in FWC who might be able to help me?”

A friend connected me with the public relations officer at our regional FWC office. 

He was so gracious and gave me all kinds of information. Anything I get right in the series will be thanks to him and his fellow officer, who also arranged for a ride-along on the Silver River. They let me toss out possible scenarios and then ask, “Does that work? What would you do next?” They could not have been nicer and have been very patient with my follow-up questions, too.

Once I got past my fear—and the feeling that I was imposing (which they assured me I wasn’t)—I had a great time.

Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to ask. People are most often delighted to help. Sometimes they can’t, but in that case, employ the same tactic. “Who do you know who might be able to help me?” Keep asking until you get what you need.

Missy: Kudos to you for stepping out of your comfort zone to research your upcoming series. I really look forward to reading it!

I had similar fears with my newly released boxed set of contemporary novellas, Cowboys of Summer. I was thrilled when I was invited to participate with Sherri Shackelford, Cheryl St. John, Mary Connealy, Tina Radcliffe, and Lorna Seilstad. But then I immediately panicked. How could I ever write a cowboy story? Sure, I’ve ridden horses. I’ve even taken my daughter to “horse camp” and watched as she learned to care for horses. But the running of a ranch? Still, I felt God had provided me the opportunity. So, with knees knocking, I accepted the invitation. Then I did what all authors do who feel out of their wheelhouse… I hollered for help from some of my best writer friends. :)

[Connie: I love that you took that risk! Phone-a-friend is always my first and favorite strategy, too—and waaay less scary than cold-calling experts.]

Missy: You regular blog readers can probably guess who I called on for help. I immediately emailed Pam Hillman and Mary Connealy, whose husbands are ranchers—their very own real-life cowboys! They both assured me they would help. And boy did they! They offered website links and personal experiences. They answered my crazy emails and texts about fencing and birthing calves. And then, bless them, they even read a scene or two to make sure I didn’t embarrass myself. Now, this is where I have to add: ANY MISTAKES IN MY NOVELLA ARE MY OWN. If you see that I got something wrong, please don’t blame them. :)

[Connie: They were the perfect sources. How fun! By the way, I’ll have a similar disclaimer in my upcoming book. J]

Missy: What I’d like for you to take away today is that it actually is possible to write what you don’t know—with lots of research and the help of others. Like Connie said, don’t be afraid to ask.

Writing What You Know...and What You Don't Know

Connie: I agree. It is definitely possible. Just don’t let fear of making a mistake paralyze you. Whether you’re writing what you know, or what you don’t, remember that stories hinge on those telling details, the things that make places like say, Florida and Arizona totally different, just like your story will be completely different from anyone else’s.

Happy writing!

We have giveaways! Missy is giving away 2 Kindle copies of Cowboys of Summer and Connie is giving away two print copies of Deadly Melody! (U.S. winners only this time.) Please let us know in the comments that you’d like to be entered.

Writers, have you tried writing what you don’t know? Readers, what do you think about writers creating stories about something that’s new to them?

P.S. Be sure to read below about Connie's special promotion: She'll be donating profits from preorders and this week's sales of Deadly Melody to help street children from the Philippines!


Connie Mann is a licensed boat captain and the author of the Safe Harbor romantic suspense series, as well as Angel Falls and Trapped. When she’s not dreaming up plotlines, you’ll find “Captain Connie” on Central Florida’s waterways, introducing boats full of schoolchildren to their first alligator. She’s also passionate about helping women and children in developing countries break the poverty cycle. She and her hubby love traveling and spending time on the water with their grown children and extended family. (Hubby says they are good at fishing, but lousy at catching.) Visit Connie online at

Writing What You Know...and What You Don't Know

Home is where the heart is. The danger, too . . .

The Martinellis were the closest thing to family Cat Johnson ever had. That’s why she ran—to protect them from her threatening past. The orphaned child of classical musicians, she’s been lying low in Nashville, and performing at the No Name Café. When Cat reluctantly agrees to attend the wedding of her beloved foster sister, the plan is simple: make a quick appearance at the Martinellis and then disappear again. Instead she’s thrust headlong into a nightmare.

After a wedding guest is murdered, Cat’s past descends with a vengeance. So does handsome and inquisitive Safe Harbor cop, Nick Stanton, who will stop at nothing to uncover the town’s secrets. That means exposing Cat’s as well. The more intimate Nick’s feelings for Cat become, the more driven he is to find out what she’s hiding. 

As things in Safe Harbor take a terrifying turn, Cat realizes that the man she’s afraid to trust might be the only one she can turn to. 

Special Promotion

Since the heroine of DEADLY MELODY is a musician, I’ve teamed up with the School in a Cart in Manila, Philippines, to support their street children’s band. Being part of something and learning to play an instrument is really helping these street children stay in school and get an education--their best hope to break the poverty cycle. I’m donating all my pre-order and first week’s royalties (via to make a difference in the lives of these children. Will you help me help them?

Writing What You Know...and What You Don't Know

As the summer weather sizzles, relax by the pool with stirring tales of handsome cowboys and the spirited ladies who wrangle them into romance. Six of Christian fiction's most beloved authors join forces to bring you a collection of humorous, romantic and heartfelt novellas set against the sultry heat of summer.

In "His Lone Star Heart" by Missy Tippens, rancher Zeb West tries hard not to fall for Beecher Brown, the feisty but off-limits sister of his best friend. As she tries to prove she's capable of running her family's ranch--the one he's trying to buy--he might just find he's met his match...for life.

After more than 10 years of pursuing her dream of publication, Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, made her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, Holt Medallion, ACFW Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, and the Romance Writers of America RITA® Award. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.com and

Making the Most of Your Setting

by Mindy Obenhaus

Stories are comprised of different elements. Characters, plot and setting being the main three. Yet every writer writes differently. Some start with plot. Others start with characters and then create a plot that will generate the most conflict possible. However, there are times when a writer is so inspired by a setting that they just have to write a story about it.
Making the Most of Your Setting
That’s what happened to me. The first time my mother-in-law introduced me to Ouray, Colorado, I knew I had to use it as a setting for a story. The town was so beautiful and unique that I wanted to tell everyone about it. Six books later, I’m still singing the praises of my most favorite place.
Making the Most of Your Setting

How do you make setting an integral part of your story?

A writer’s first instinct might be to throw in loads of description. But if you’ve spent any time here in Seekerville, you know that won’t fly. We cannot wax poetically for paragraphs on end because editors do not like that and, frankly, it can get boring. And rule number one is don’t bore the reader.

So whether your setting is a real place or simply lives in your mind, here are a few ways to make the most of it without beating readers over the head.

Give at least one character a job or hobby that is unique to your setting

Is there something about your setting that makes it different from other places? Ouray is the Jeeping Capital of the World.
Making the Most of Your Setting
It’s also America’s ice climbing capital.
Making the Most of Your Setting
Yes, that's really me.
So, naturally, I’ve incorporated a hero and a heroine who’ve owned Jeep tour companies into my stories. I’ve also had an avid ice climber and mountain guide. And then there’s Ouray’s rich mining history, which still goes on today, allowing me to have a hero who was a miner.

During the gold rush, Ouray, population 1000, was a thriving mining town that boasted more than 10,000 residents whose legacies still live on in the abundance of historic homes and other buildings, making it ripe for bed-and-breakfast owners and restoration projects.

Think about your story. Are there any jobs or hobbies unique to its setting?

Setting can create limitations

Ouray is a tiny town with one grocer, a hardware store and no drive-thru restaurants. It’s a minimum of thirty minutes to the nearest fast-food restaurant, supercenter, home improvement store and hospital. That means that when my self-reliant heroine has a flat tire on her motorcycle and needs a plug to fix it, but the hardware store is all out, she’s stuck.

Yet while these limitations may force the writer to be more creative, the good news is that they can also create conflict for our characters. Like when the clerk at the hardware store suggests our heroine check with the Jeep tour company across the street, where she would be forced to ask our hero, the one man she does not want help from, to help her out.

Ask yourself, does my setting present any limitations?

Put your setting to work for you

When I was writing my first book, The Doctor’s Family Reunion, I knew that something potentially dangerous was going to happen to one of my characters. I researched diseases and ailments until I was blue in the face before I finally decided what should be wrong with them. But when I told my husband, he said, “Well, that’s silly. Why not use your setting?”

Talk about a V8 moment. Here I was trying to contrive something that would put my character in danger, when I could have that danger grow organically out of my setting. Which, in the end, made a much stronger story.

Here’s an example.
Making the Most of Your Setting
The main highway that leads in and out of Ouray can be very scary to drive even in the best of conditions, with its harrowing curves and sheer drop-offs. But that drive can be downright treacherous during a winter storm. And what if they close the road, which often happens. Then our character is either trapped in Ouray or forced to find an alternative route that could take them someplace unexpected or make them miss the flight they really have to be on.
Going back to your manuscript, how can your setting wreak havoc with your characters?

Get to know your setting

Whether your setting is real or fictitious, you owe it to yourself and your readers to learn everything you can about it. What makes it special? If it’s a real place, how do locals view things versus how visitors see them? Learn what they might do or where they might go.

In Ouray, while all the tourists are flocking to Yankee Boy Basin, the locals might head to some little known place like Silver Basin.
Making the Most of Your Setting
Had it not been for my friend Brandy who owns a Jeep tour company in Ouray, I might have never discovered Silver Basin.

Have you taken the time to get to know your setting?

Setting is an important part of any story and can be a powerful tool. With a little thought and planning, or research and exploration, you can make the most of your setting, putting it to work for you in ways you might never have imagined. And in the end, your story will be better for it.

Now it's your turn. What’s your first step in creating a story? Plot, characters or setting? Do you take the time to think about your setting?

Making the Most of Your Setting

Three-time Carol Award nominee, Mindy Obenhaus, writes contemporary romance for Love Inspired Books. She’s passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren at her Texas ranch. Learn more at

Planning a Successful Brainstorming Retreat

Planning a Successful Brainstorming Retreat

by Pam Hillman

A couple of weeks ago, I got together with a group of other authors for my first ever brainstorming retreat.


Janet W. Ferguson, Patricia Bradley, Stephenia H. McGee, and I all live in Mississippi, and we were scheduled to go to a book signing at a library, so I reached out to them to see if they’d be interested in scheduling a retreat at the same time. To my delight, all three were ready to brainstorm a new project, so it was perfect timing for all of us.

Now, before I get to the nuts and bolts of what worked for us, let me say I had the most fun at this retreat than anything I’ve ever done in the writing world. If you get the chance to go to a brainstorming retreat, do. If there’s not one in your area, or you can’t travel a long distance to one, then reach out to your circle of friends and organize one yourself.

So, how do you go about that…

Hostess - Someone needs to be “in charge” of your retreat. In this case, since it was my idea, I took the reins. We figured out when and how long all of us could meet, and I built our schedule around that. I booked the venue, prepared the schedule, and then … uh … tore it all up at the last minute. But for a really good reason. (Read on to find out…)

Central Location - While a retreat at some far-flung location that requires two days of air-travel might be on all of our bucket lists, scheduling, cost, time, and exhaustion factors in for some of us. Or at least it does for me.

Everyone in our group lives in Mississippi. While Pat had to travel the farthest, she was going to be in the area for the book signing, so didn’t travel “extra” for our retreat. So, search for a central location to minimize everyone’s travel time and expense. 

Keep it Simple - Originally, I looked at booking a cabin at a local park. But since the cabins at that location require you to bring your own bedding, we opted for a hotel instead. Since there were only four of us, it worked out beautifully. (And their continental breakfast was exceptional!)

Be Flexible - Remember how I said I planned the retreat, booked the venue, and created the schedule? Well, 24 hours before the retreat, I had to cancel. Why? My 2nd granddaughter decided to make an appearance on the exact day of the retreat. But all was not lost. Since there was no airfare involved, and our small group was flexible, we shifted from the day before the book signing to two days after. The hotel rebooked us, and that was that. Su-weet!

Piggybacking Another Event - If you’re thinking of planning a retreat before or after another event as we did, consider carefully which one is the most exhausting. For instance, as stated above, our retreat was originally scheduled for the day before and morning of our book signing. I used so much brain power during our brainstorming that if I’d gone from there to the book signing, then had a two hour drive home, I would have been comatose. 

Planning a Successful Brainstorming Retreat

Four and no more - Okay, maybe you can have a few more than four, but be careful of having so many people that the ideas are coming at you faster than you can think. Also, if there are 7-8 (or more), it’s going to be hard to get through that many sessions without everyone becoming exhausted, so either you’ll need to allow extra day(s) or break into two or more groups. Bottom line, four worked perfectly for us.

Schedule - The hostess should create a tentative schedule and run it by the group. Our group could only meet from 2 pm until 10 am the next day. I originally scheduled 1 1/2 hours for each session, but we quickly realized that our natural rhythm leaned toward 2-3 hours for each story idea.

We got through four ideas in 20 hours, only breaking 2 hours for dinner, 7 for sleep, and 1 hour for breakfast. I don’t advise that tight of a schedule! Ha! I don’t know about the others, but I was exhausted. Ideally, two full days with two sessions on each day, some time to relax over lunch and dinner, and time to get a good night’s sleep for the next day is critical.

Share Ideas Ahead of Time - The sessions will go smoother if you share everything you know about your story with the other brainstorming partners ahead of time. Don’t worry if what you have is vague or even if it’s open to change. Just give everyone something to hang their hats on. We shared genre, time period, location, and as much of the characters and plot as we’d figured out. Plus some. :)

Internet Access - One of the things you might not think is important to a brainstorming session is internet access. I certainly didn’t think we’d use it at all. But Janet was a whiz at researching historical and relative people/places/events that took our story ideas to a new level.

Friends and Partners - Read your partners’ existing work, or at the very least have a working knowledge of what they write. Historical romance? Romantic suspense? Women’s fiction? Light and fluffy, or dark and sinister? The more you know about their style, the better you’ll be at brainstorming their stories. And vice versa.

Mix of Genres - And in that vein, we brainstormed two historical and two contemporaries. While it’s not a hard and fast rule to mix genres when brainstorming, flipping from one to the other kept our creative juices flowing.

What Else? - Load up on snacks, drinks, coffee, and comfortable seating. And a few blankets or throws for those who are easily chilled. (Not mentioning any names, but her initials are SHM!) Pat brought an artist’s sketch pad and markers. When we got stuck on my hero’s GMC, she pulled out the paper, and we were off and running again.

And Last - Don’t stress. Pack light. Fly/drive “ugly” as my friend Robin is fond of saying. Wear sweatpants and flip-flops. Pull your hair up in a ponytail and forego the makeup if you like. But bring on the story and your thinking caps!

So, there you go. That’s how we did it. Now it’s your turn. Have you been part of a brainstorming retreat? Please share your tips, techniques, and any advice on things to avoid.

Leave a comment for a chance to win an ARC of
Book #2 in my Natchez Trace Novel series.
Planning a Successful Brainstorming Retreat
Click Here to Pre-Order

Conflict and Tension Part 3, When to Resolve Conflict

Melanie Dickerson here. Have you ever started a story thinking you had this amazing conflict that would keep your readers enthralled until the end of the story, only to realize early on that it’s not feasible to keep this conflict going for the whole story? You don't want the story to get boring. 

I used to panic when this would happen, but I realized something. Rather than dragging out a problem beyond believability, why not just let that conflict be resolved—and add a new conflict?

Conflict and Tension Part 3, When to Resolve Conflict

I try to let my conflicts resolve themselves in a believable amount of time. I don't want the story to drag, and it will if there isn't enough believable conflict. The trick is to make sure there are other conflicts that will take prominence as soon as that other conflict, or problem, is resolved.

For example, in one of my favorite movies, Penelope, starring Christina Ricci and James McAvoy, Penelope’s parents hide their daughter from the public, since she has the nose and ears of a pig, as they search for a society blue-blood to marry her and break the curse. This tension of hiding keeps the viewer wondering what will happen if and when people see Penelope's "disfigured" face. But this is resolved partway through the movie when Penelope runs away from home and her photograph is plastered all over the media. She immediately becomes a media darling, beloved by the public. 

Conflict and Tension Part 3, When to Resolve Conflict

But there is another conflict that takes that one’s place—the bad guy begins dating her and she gets engaged to him. We knows he’s only doing it as a publicity stunt to repair his reputation--and the hero, who's really in love with her, knows that too. This is a huge point of angst for our hero and heroine, both of whom we have grown to love. There are also other conflicts that were started in the beginning that carry over. So even though one of the main sources of conflict is resolved, there are still plenty of unanswered questions and unresolved conflict keeping us engaged in the story.

In my book, The Beautiful Pretender, which is a Princess and the Pea /slash/ Beauty and the Beast mash-up, the heroine is an imposter. She’s not the daughter of an earl, as the hero supposes, but is actually just a maidservant. In my mind the climax would come when [spoiler alert] the hero chooses the heroine from all the other marriageable daughters of dukes and earls and other nobles—and immediately discovers she has been using a false identity. All manner of sparks will fly.

Conflict and Tension Part 3, When to Resolve Conflict

The problem was that about halfway through the story, I realized the plot would soon start to grow boring if I tried to drag out that "climax/black moment" scene until the end. There were only so many scenes I could write about the hero “testing” the young ladies to see who was the most noble, building up to the moment when he would choose a wife. So I did a bit more brainstorming, even getting my editor on the phone to brainstorm with me. I realized I still had a lot of loose ends that would need to be tied up, not to mention more time for the hero and heroine to fall in love and resolve the conflict caused by her deceiving him.

I went ahead and had the big scene almost two-thirds of the way through the story—too early to be a true “climax/black moment” scene, which the reader was already expecting anyway. However, the reader would not expect me to let that scene come with a third of the story left. This is tricky. On the one hand, I surprised my reader. But on the other hand, I couldn't let that last third of the book be boring because all their questions had been answered. So I created lots of danger, which had already been building and was foreshadowed earlier. Also, my hero and heroine had not declared their love for each other, and the obstacles keeping them from marrying were as great as ever.

Conflict and Tension Part 3, When to Resolve Conflict

I allowed my villains to wreak havoc, making the conflict stronger than ever. The heroine was stranded in the woods where wolves were lurking and the hero had to save her. The villain took over the hero’s castle, and he and the heroine spent several hours hiding from him. This led to lots of lovely scenes of danger and angst and longing. It worked well, I think, because that book has the highest ratings of any of my other books on sites like Amazon and Goodreads. I was able to resolve that major conflict—revealing the heroine’s true identity to the hero and everyone else in the story—because there was plenty of other conflicts to deal with, including the fall-out from the revelation.

I seem to have a lot of stories with characters who are using false identities. In The Noble Servant, both the hero and the heroine are hiding their identities, for different reasons. I was not quite sure when I wanted this to be revealed. The question keeping the reader reading was: When will the hero and heroine discover the true identity of the other? I decided to answer that question fairly early, since I didn’t want to drag it on so long that it lost its tension. But there were lots of other questions to take its place. Will the villain discover that the hero is still alive? Will he see him and kill him? Will the hero and heroine find proof of the hero’s identity so he can resume his rightful place? Why does the villain think the heroine has something valuable enough to kill over? And what is that thing? And there are lots of other questions, hopefully not least of which is, Will the hero overcome his fears about falling in love, fall in love with the heroine, and marry her? (Of course, we know he will, since this is a romance, but hopefully the reader desperately WANTS them to fall in love, and wants to see HOW this lovely event will come about.)

Conflict and Tension Part 3, When to Resolve ConflictConflict and Tension Part 3, When to Resolve Conflict
So, it’s time to dish about your own stories, or about the stories you’ve been reading. Are you making sure you’re not dragging your conflicts out too long, afraid of resolving them too soon? Are you making sure you have enough different conflicts so that resolving one of them (perhaps unexpectedly and thus delighting your readers) doesn’t defuse too much of your lovely conflict and tension? And as a reader, do you ever get delighted by a conflict that gets resolved sooner than you thought, only to be replaced by more lovely conflict? Do tell. One lucky commenter will win a copy of your choice of The Beautiful Pretender or The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest.

And I can't help getting excited about The Orphan's Wish, releasing on June 26. Aladdin and Kirstyn . . . sigh. Available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CBD, and all the others. 
Conflict and Tension Part 3, When to Resolve Conflict
I nearly forgot to mention, The Noble Servant is $1.99 today! Get it while you can! 
Conflict and Tension Part 3, When to Resolve Conflict

Taking Advice Like a Pro

Taking Advice Like a Pro

by Jan Drexler

When we first start out writing, we usually grab the pieces of advice that come our way as if they're the gospel truth. They become “rules” for our writing. After all, we’re trying to learn, right? And we all know that learning to write is hard. It has a steep learning curve, so every bit of information we can glean along the way is valuable.

Taking Advice Like a Pro

But once we start writing that story of our heart, we find that not every piece of writing advice works. Well, at least not for us.
And then doubt begins to creep in… if I don’t do it the way Super Author does it, does that mean I’m not really a writer? I’ll never get published!

I’m here to give you one rule to cover all the other voices you hear: 

Taking Advice Like a Pro

I don’t know any two writers who approach their work in the same way. The key is to find what works for you.
Let’s look at a couple pieces of writerly advice you’ve probably heard, and whether you need to listen or not.

I’m sure you’ve heard that real writers write every day.
Let me change that a bit: 

Taking Advice Like a Pro

I know some wonderful writers who do write every day. (Raise your hands, Seeker-sisters!). That works for them and works very well.
I don’t write every day. I almost always take Sunday off, and unless I have a looming deadline, I take Saturday off, too. I need my weekends to connect with my family and recharge my creative battery.
For some people, writingis what charges their creative battery. For me, it’s getting away from the manuscript, breathing different air, letting the story simmer on the back of the stove for a while. Then I come back on Monday morning ready to dive in again.

Do I do it wrong? I don’t think so.
Do I do it right? It works for me.

Do you do it wrong?
Ask yourself: Is my writing schedule working for me? If it is, then don’t try to fix what isn’t broken. But if it isn’t, try changing things up a little. Experiment. Find your sweet spot.

Another piece of advice I’m sure you’ve heard is: Never use the word “was” in your writing.
There’s a good reason for this piece of advice. Many beginning writers have trouble keeping their writing out of the passive voice. “Was” is one of those words that you find in the passive voice, and it can signal trouble.
What is the passive voice? Here’s an example: 

Taking Advice Like a Pro

In the passive, the object of the sentence (flea) is the one acting rather than the subject of the sentence (dog). Here’s an example of the same sentence in active voice: 

Taking Advice Like a Pro

Do you see how the word “was” shows up in the passive sentence but not the active one? Yes, you want to avoid that use of “was!”

However, sometimes you wantto use “was,” but in a different context.
“Was” is also used in a verb that’s showing continuing action. It’s called the “progressive tense.” Sometimes you want to use that verb tense, like in this example: “She was eating hot dogs through the entire baseball game.” Or this one: “Andrew was eating his lunch when he heard a car drive in the yard.”

I read a book recently that never varied the verb tense, and it was painfully obvious that the author was following the “never use was” rule. What happened to her writing? It was stilted and boring. I never finished the book.

So rather than the “never use ‘was’” rule, I have a different piece of advice:  

Taking Advice Like a Pro

Be aware of verb tenses, active vs. passive voice, etc., and keep your writing fresh by varying the tenses when your story calls for it.

What does this mean to you? Maybe you need to brush on your grammar (don’t groan!). 
Or maybe you need to give yourself this homework:  
Taking Advice Like a Pro

You can find great lists of well-written books when award finalists are announced. I make it my habit to read the finalists from the Christy Awards, the Carol Awards, and some of the categories of the Rita Awards. Those books are some of the best from the current year.

What you read affects your writing. Whether you are aware of it or not, your writing will echo the books you’ve been reading. That can be a good thing when you’re reading the best books in your genre. What you take in will affect what you produce in your writing.
Am I telling you to throw out every rule or piece of advice you’ve ever heard and strike out on your own?
No way. We need rules. Boundaries. Guidelines.
But I love this quote from Pablo Picasso:

Taking Advice Like a Pro

So, tell me, what are some rules you find difficult to follow? And what are some of your favorite pieces of advice?

One commenter today will receive a copy of my latest release, "The Amish Nanny's Sweetheart."

Taking Advice Like a Pro
Love in Plain Sight 

As nanny for her nephew, Judith Lapp’s finally part of a vibrant, joyful Amish community instead of living on the outskirts looking in. But teaching her neighbors’ Englischer farmworker to read Pennsylvania Dutch wasn’t part of her plan. And the more time she spends with Guy Hoover, the more he sparks longings for a home and family of Judith’s own.

Guy figured he would never be truly accepted by his Amish employers’ community—even though the Mast family treats him like a son. But Judith’s steadfast caring shows him that true belonging could be within his reach…if he and Judith can reconcile their very different hopes—and hearts.

Kiss and Tell (part one): Creating a Swoonlicious Book Boyfriend

Kiss and Tell (part one): Creating a Swoonlicious Book Boyfriend

Anyone who hangs around me for any length of time - online or in "real" life - learns pretty quickly that I'm an avid collector of book boyfriends. My husband has resigned himself to this collection, goodnaturedly tolerating my swoons over fictitious heroes and pretending not to notice that most of them are based on Henry Cavill or Chris Hemsworth.

(Now, before anyone starts clutching their pearls... He's not threatened because he knows I know they're fictional. After all, my husband is my very own Mr. Knightley and that's the best kind of hero anyway.)

Since I first met Prince Charming on the pages of Cinderella (a book I had memorized before I could technically read), I have been adding to my book boyfriend collection. And while Prince Charming joins Frank Hardy, Gilbert Blythe and Thane Andrews (Roses for Mama by Janette Oke) in my book boyfriends hall of fame (another way to say 'book boyfriends I've loved since middle school"), more recently I have amassed quite a swoonilicous collection of new book boyfriends. And don't tell Charming, Frank, Gilbert and Thane, but this new crop is even more swoonilicious! 

Of my reads from the past three years or so, there are five heroes that I have quite a crush on. See, I fall in love with book boyfriends while I'm reading their particular story but more often than not when I move on to a new book, I move on to a new book boyfriend as well. (It's not cheating if they're fictional! The internet says so!) However, these five guys made such an impression on me that a) I can't quit talking about them and b) I put them on a shirt. 

Kiss and Tell (part one): Creating a Swoonlicious Book Boyfriend

In case you haven't met them yet, let me introduce you! Meet James MacDonald (aka #myJames) from Carla Laureano's Five Days in Skye, Ty Porter from Becky Wade's Meant to be Mine, Charlie Lionheart from Joanne Bischof's The Lady and the Lionheart, Vance Everstone from Dawn Crandall's The Cautious Maiden, and Wes Harrison from Pepper Basham's Just the Way You Are. Ironically enough, three of these swoonlicious fellas look like Henry Cavill. For those of you taking notes, that's not a MUST but it certainly helps ;) 

Since I debuted my book boyfriends shirt, I've been asked this question more times than I can count: 

How do my heroes get on your shirt???

Now, aside from the potential awkwardness beget (begotten?) from a question such as this one, I have been mulling over a list of characteristics that make these five book boyfriends (and your future heroes) shirt-worthy.

  1. Falling in love hits HIM in all the feels. Obviously, it needs to hit me in the feels too (I still have not recovered from Vance's redemption or Charlie's sacrifice) but when it makes the hero's voice go husky, his throat tight, his control fray... these things are sure to have me swooning right off my fainting couch (also known as my trusty recliner). For example, watching tough, cocky, bullrider Ty Porter or smoldering, flirty James MacDonald fall hard in love is truly a swoonilicious pleasure.
  2. He's not afraid to share those feels, when appropriate. I'm all for macho heroes but there's something particularly yummy about a guy who isn't afraid to tell a girl how he feels. To tell her he's scared, too. To tell her that he's trying to rein in his desires because he respects her, but also to tell her that he has those intense desires to rein in. To let his voice get all raspy and his jaw tight. I'm all a'swoon just thinking about it! (But please, for the love of all things swoony, don't make him smarmy!! If a guy's every thought is some sort of innuendo, nope. He can express desire but right on its heels must be respect. Vance Everstone & Wes Harrison are great examples of this desire/respect balance.)
  3. He is a man of integrity and character...Eventually. He can be a bad boy at the start but the process of redemption must be a key element to his story. I'm telling you right now, there is nearly nothing as sexy (am I allowed to use that word??? Where's Julie Lessman when you need her? LOL) ... anyway, there is nothing quite so swoonilicious as a redeemed rogue. If you look at each of these 5 heroes, you'll find a bit (or more) of redeemed bad boy in each one of them.
  4. He is a protector at heart. A shirt-worthy book boyfriend doesn't have to be a Navy SEAL or an FBI agent or a First Responder (though, now I'm swooning at the thought) but he has to have some sort of protective instincts. If someone tells him to stay put when his woman is in danger, he better not stay put. And if he's forced to stay put because he's stuck in a hospital bed with a possibly-mortal injury of his own... well... then he at least needs to be growly about not being able to come to her rescue. Even if your book is not a suspense novel, this protective side can come out around kids, dogs, and the heroine in other ways that are just as meaningful. Worthy of note is that none of my 5 shirt-worthy book boyfriends are in a suspense novel. But if you've met Charlie Lionheart, you can't say he doesn't have protective instincts!
  5. He's a goooooood kisser! Ok, this last one isn't essential but y'all there is something to be said for a kiss that has you using your book as a swooning fan. (Please be cautious of using your kindle in the same manner... it doesn't have quite the same cool-air effect and a miscalculated swoosh could leave you a bit bruised. Don't ask me how I know this.) We'll talk more about what makes a gooooood kiss the next time I'm on Seekerville! (July 13th, if I did my math right.) 
Now, take this advice with a grain of salt because every reader has her own preferences. Some like flirty heroes. Some like brooding Mr. Darcy-types. Some go for the nerds. Some get weak-kneed over the bearded lumberjacks (I'm looking at you, Beth Erin!) and others prefer a scruffy cowboy or a dashing Brit. It also depends on what kind of chemistry the hero has with the heroine, and the overall quality of the story.

Dear readers, the stuff of fairy-tale romance and happily-ever-after is in our soul's DNA. God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and I believe this is one reason we crave the Prince Charming who comes riding in on a white horse to defeat evil and whisk away as his bride. Sound familiar? Yes, that's basically the plot of every fairy-tale and nearly every romance ever written. But it's also THE plot. It's the story God has been telling from the beginning!

One day Jesus WILL come riding in on a white horse as our Prince of Peace to defeat evil and whisk us away as His bride (Rev 19) to the ultimate happily-ever-after (Rev 21). As we wait for it play out in reality, we read little reflections of it in the meantime. This is why we collect book boyfriends... and this is why certain heroes make it onto my shirt. Because in their stories, I see The Story. They remind me that THIS is love, that someday my Prince will come... in a tale as old as time.

Until then, I'll keep collecting book boyfriends and adding them to my shirts. I've already got a list going for the next one ;)

    Kiss and Tell (part one): Creating a Swoonlicious Book Boyfriend

    Authors: What do you find most difficult about writing a swoony hero?
    Readers: Who are some of your fave book boyfriends?

Let me know in the comments & you'll be entered to win ONE BOOK of your choice from ONE of my book boyfriend lists found here:

(I told you I talk them about them alot LOL)

Giveaway is open internationally, provided Book Depository has the book of your choice and ships to your location. Void where prohibited by law.
Kiss and Tell (part two): Creating a Swoonilicious KissRUE the Day We Don’t Respect Our ReadersSelling Without BraggingConflict and Tension, Part 4Writing What You Know...and What You Don't KnowMaking the Most of Your SettingPlanning a Successful Brainstorming RetreatConflict and Tension Part 3, When to Resolve ConflictTaking Advice Like a ProKiss and Tell (part one): Creating a Swoonlicious Book Boyfriend

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