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From HS Creative Writing Assignment to Debut Novel: The Evolution of Matty Redd

 by Ryan Steck


Back when I was in tenth grade, there was a young teaching intern who, in an attempt to excite a less-than-enthused group of teenagers, tasked us with a creative writing assignment unlike any other. Our homework, she explained, was to write a short story about anything we wanted, but here’s where it got fun—nothing was off-limits content-wise, including language, action, violence, you name it.

Back then (though my wife might argue this is true today as well), I was very much the type of fifteen-year-old who, if you gave me an inch, I would take ten miles. Always one to push the boundaries in high school, I went home ready to dive into my assignment, knowing full well that I was going to indeed pack my story full of action, language, and plenty of violence. So I started writing. And soon, a fully fleshed-out character came to me. His name was Matty Redd.

From HS Creative Writing Assignment to Debut Novel: The Evolution of Matty Redd
*image from Pixabay

My short story, which I cranked out over the weekend, featured Redd, a young vigilante on a comic book–like quest to rid his school of injustice. There was a lot of language and even more action, which, if I’m honest, was all unnecessary and only added, well, simply because we could. Or so I thought.

Supremely proud of my short story, I turned it in, excited for feedback and to see our teacher’s reaction. She had, after all, given us free rein, and though I was fully aware I pushed the envelope a tad (okay, a lot), there was also a side of me that knew I started the project almost as a joke and ended up writing with conviction and excitement. The class clown back then, I didn’t necessarily want people to know that I tried so hard to produce a complete story, as that wasn’t the “cool” thing to do. And yet, I couldn’t help but wonder what our intern would think of Matty Redd.

As fate would have it, there were a couple things about that assignment I wasn’t aware of when I first sat down to write it. For starters, it came as a big surprise to me when, the next day in class, it was announced that in order to receive peer-to-peer feedback, everyone would randomly be assigned someone else’s paper to read out loud in the class. I can still remember the face of the poor kid who had to read my paper, Matty Redd, in front of everyone. His cheeks turned a deep shade of red, and on several occasions, he stopped to ask our intern if he should keep reading. She let him, but I’m telling you, that moment had all the makings of a Southwest Airlines commercial. You know, the ones that always show someone in an awkward moment which ends with “Wanna get away?” Well, he did. It was brutal.

The second thing I didn’t realize about that assignment was that it had to be reviewed by the teacher. Not the young, cool, hip intern. No. By the actual teacher, and let me tell you something, he did not share his intern’s taste for boundary-pushing teenage crime fiction. The following day, I was called down to the office, where I promptly found my parents, the superintendent, and the principal waiting for me. I wasn’t sure what was going on at first, but the situation went from bad to worse when my principal whipped out a copy of Matty Redd and had my parents read it. That moment, by the way, would have made a great follow-up commercial—as it most certainly had a “Wanna get away?” vibe to it, and not only for me. My parents were embarrassed too, and though I knew I would be in trouble, something funny happened. Of all the times I had gotten in trouble in school, for once, my parents were on my side. Their main point was that, yeah, maybe I took things too far, but after all, that was the assignment, and therefore, because I did what was asked, there shouldn’t be a punishment. The school disagreed and suspended me for a week. It was, for the record, the only suspension where I wasn’t in trouble at home and basically served as a weeklong vacation. Still, I learned my lesson.

Flash forward more than fifteen years later, and something else happened . . .

I thought, back then, as an immature fifteen-year-old, that Matty Redd had come to me as a fully fleshed-out character. I was wrong, though, and in my adult life, armed with a new mindset and more life experiences shaped by getting older, marriage, and even fatherhood, I realized there was a lot about Matthew Redd that I didn’t know. And one day, I started wondering what, all these years later, he might be up to. I knew I wanted to be a storyteller, and as I researched and began shaping plot ideas, it was clear to me that the perfect character to anchor my story was Matty Redd.

From HS Creative Writing Assignment to Debut Novel: The Evolution of Matty Redd
Turns out, Matthew Redd was the same guy I always knew, albeit much older and similarly armed with a plethora of new life experiences himself. Over the course of about a year and more than 100,000 words later, I explored who he is but also what message he might want to send. That, coupled with a story idea I had in mind about a mystery set in Montana that would lead to a global conspiracy, turned into Fields of Fire, my debut novel—and the first book in my Matty Redd thriller series—set to hit bookstores on September 6.

I’ve met a lot of people over the years who tell me there’s a story they always wanted to tell or maybe a plot concept they had come up with but never explored because they never got around to it for one reason or another. My message is always the same and one that I truly believe in: Do it! It’s never too late, by the way, so what’s stopping you? There was nothing out of the ordinary about me that led to me being an author. At the end of the day, I’m just an adult version of the same kid who took a creative writing assignment way too far in high school, only now I do it for a living. You can too. Start one page at a time. One chapter a time. Write and don’t give up. First drafts don’t need to be good; that’s what editing and second drafts are for. Just keep at it, and don’t ever give up.

By the way, that same principal—who I greatly admire—who suspended me is now my kids’ principal. And it turns out, Matthew Redd is the gift that keeps giving. Not only did I get a week off school, but I also got a book deal out of him. Who would have thought, right? Moving forward, I can’t wait to see what trouble he gets into next and to finally be able to introduce him to readers.


About Ryan

From HS Creative Writing Assignment to Debut Novel: The Evolution of Matty Redd
Ryan Steck is an editor, an author, and the founder and editor in chief of The Real Book Spy. Ryan has been named an "Online Influencer" by Amazon and is a regular columnist at CrimeReads. TheRealBookSpy.com has been endorsed by #1 New York Times bestsellers Mark Greaney, Lisa Scottoline, Brad Thor, and many others. A resident of Michigan, along with his wife and their six kids, Steck cheers on his beloved Detroit Tigers and Lions during the rare moments when he's not reading or talking about books on social media. He can be reached via email at Ryan@TheRealBookSpy.com.






About Fields of Fire


From HS Creative Writing Assignment to Debut Novel: The Evolution of Matty Redd
“You know Ryan Steck as the Real Book Spy. Now, get to know him as the author of Fields of Fire, his debut thriller featuring Marine Raider Matthew Redd in a battle that will leave you speechless and begging for more. Lock and load!” —Jack Carr, Navy SEAL Sniper and #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Devil’s Hand

Waiting to be deployed on a critical mission, elite Marine Raider Matthew Redd stops to help a stranger and wakes up hours later to learn his team was wiped out in an ambush. Unable to remember anything, Redd can’t deny the possibility that he’s somehow responsible for the information leak that led to the massacre. He’s given a deal to avoid a charge of treason, but it means walking away from the Corps and the life he loved.

As he faces his loss, Matty gets a cryptic message from his adoptive father, J. B.: “Trouble’s come knocking. . . . Might need your help.” He points his truck home to rural Montana, only to discover that J. B. is dead and the explanation for his death is far from satisfying. Determined to dig up the truth, Redd uncovers a dark global conspiracy with his hometown at the center and no team at his back—except one he might find among past friends, old enemies, and new allies, if he can figure out who to trust.

Releases on September 6, 2022.


Giveaway*


Please leave a comment for Ryan for a chance to win a copy of Fields of Fire.


*Giveaway courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers and is subject to giveaway terms and conditions of Seekerville and Tyndale House Publishers. US Mailing addresses only.

Incorporating Real-Life Events into Your Story

 by Janice Cantore


Incorporating Real-Life Events into Your Story
In the fiction I write and read, I love to feel a sense of reality and authenticity. It’s easier for me to lose myself in a story if it’s all plausible. That’s what incorporating real-life events into a novel does—it makes the fiction seem real. A fictional tale that sounds real becomes more than words on a page. Readers can picture the story in their minds when each page sings with something that could have come from today’s headlines. When I write, one real-life event may simply nurture my story idea, while another may become a whole novel. Adding realistic details throughout can also infuse a novel with life, making everything about it come alive for the reader.

In every novel I write, I try to incorporate something I’ve personally experienced or a real-life event I’ve read about. The idea for my first book with Tyndale, Accused, grew from a very sad real-life event. A sixteen-year-old had been arrested for killing a crossing guard and stuffing her body in the trunk of a car. I was working juvenile at the time, and I remember seeing the kid and wondering what made him into a killer. He looked so normal. Later, more and more what-ifs strolled through my mind, and I landed on the story idea. “What if he didn’t do it?” Then, “What if the only person who believes him is the cop who books him?” Accused was born.


Incorporating Real-Life Events into Your Story
In my novel Catching Heat, the third in the Cold Case Justice series, one of the story ideas was born after I watched an episode of the TV show Cold Case Files. It was about Kristen Smart, a college student in San Luis Obispo who disappeared in 1996. Everyone in California who was alive then probably remembers the name. Her photo was everywhere as her frantic folks begged witnesses to come forward. The last person to see her alive was a guy who claimed he simply walked her home. There were holes in his story and circumstantial evidence pointed to him, but his parents shut down any police inquiry, and the case went cold. 

Sadly, it’s very plausible for a college student to go missing from her college campus. Making up a parallel case for my novel, I had my cold case detectives travel to San Luis Obispo to work on the case. In this case, the boyfriend was the suspect and everyone involved in the cold case knew he did it; they just couldn’t prove it. My fictional detectives worked their way through the evidence and found a way to trip up the boyfriend and solve the murder. 

As an interesting side note, the detectives handling the Smart case never gave up. In 2016, police in San Luis Obispo announced they had new evidence. By 2021, the guy who walked Kristen Smart home—and his father—were arrested and charged with her murder. 

In my latest novel, Code of Courage, real-life riots spawned the story. I’m certain most people can remember the riots last summer, images of stores burning and large angry mobs confronting police. I was horrified by it because it brought up memories of the riots I experienced while a police officer in Long Beach in 1992. I wanted to tell a story about riots and their impact on a community, from the perspective of a police officer dealing with the danger of an out-of-control, rioting mob. 

Incorporating real life into a novel is more than single events. Often in my novels I include minor details that I remember from patrol work. Things like how the leather in my belt squeaked when I would get in and out of the car, or how hard it was to secure a combative suspect in the back seat, or how bad a drunk smelled at two in the morning. Sometimes the odor lingered long after the drunk was gone. I also try to convey how wonderful it was to belong to the brotherhood of law enforcement, the thin blue line. The feeling of family makes working in law enforcement special, and I hope readers get that sense from my books.

Yes, it’s fiction, make-believe, but the more real you make a story sound, the more easily readers will get lost in the fiction. I love to get lost in a novel when I read, and I hope people reading my stories will feel that way about them.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


A person with the hand on the chin  Description automatically generated with medium confidenceJanice Cantore is a retired Long Beach police officer who now writes suspense novels to keep readers engrossed and leave them inspired. Her twenty-two years of experience on the force lend authenticity to her stories. She has penned thirteen novels: the Line of Duty series, the Cold Case Justice series, the Pacific Coast Justice series, Critical Pursuit, Visible Threat, Breach of Honor, and Code of Courage.




ABOUT CODE OF COURAGE


Incorporating Real-Life Events into Your Story
Detective Danni Grace has never met a police officer who wants to face a scenario where pulling the trigger on another person is the only option. When the worst does occur and there’s a police-involved shooting, it leads to riots and calls to disband the entire police force in La Rosa, Danni’s hometown.

After fifteen years on the force, Danni has had enough. Injured in the line of duty when a protester throws a chunk of concrete at her and shaken by the vitriol being shown to the police, Danni realizes for the first time that she’s lost her passion for the job.

While she’s on a leave of absence, though, a community activist in La Rosa is shot and a fellow officer is blamed for his murder. Taking on this case means stepping back into a job Danni’s not sure she can do anymore . . . and working closely with her ex-husband, Gabriel Fox, an investigator for the city prosecutor’s office. Danni will need to tap into her code of courage to uncover the truth, prevent another injustice, and uphold her oath to serve and protect.

Release Date:July 19, 2022



Thank you, Janice!  

Giveaway*: Please leave a comment for Janice for a chance to win a copy of her upcoming release, Code of Courage. 



*Giveaway prize courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers. Giveaway subject to Seekerville and Tyndale House Publishers' giveaway terms and conditions. US Mailing addresses only.



Finessing a Story

Finessing a Story

by Mindy Obenhaus

Today's post come from the vault but has some great tips for polishing that manuscript before we send it off. 

I have a book due in less than three weeks. The story is out of my head and on the page, the metamorphosis from idea to book almost complete. But before I can submit this story, it must be finessed.

Finessing involves skillful maneuvering. As writers, we need to skillfully, purposefully, write our stories in a way that takes readers on a journey and leaves them basking in the glow of a satisfying ending.

When finessing a manuscript, there are certain things I look for.

Have I adequately described each setting? 

Each and every scene needs a sense of place to ground it, otherwise you just have talking heads. However, too much description can bore a reader. Too little leaves them wanting and maybe even feeling a little lost. Determine what aspects of your setting are important, then sprinkle those details throughout the scene. Also, ask yourself if you’re showing the reader the scene, allowing them to see it through the POV character’s eyes, or if you’re telling them. 

Showing is always better because it allows the reader to experience the story.
Finessing a Story

Strong word choices.  

Is your character running, hurrying, scurrying or speeding? Each of these words means, essentially, the same thing, but which is best for the context of your scene? If it’s a lighthearted scene, your heroine might be scurrying to gather things for a party. On the other hand, your police office hero would likely race or speed to the scene of an accident. 

What words best fit the emotion and feel of your scene?

Are my characters actions/reactions believable and appropriate?  

When I receive my line edits, they sometimes contain notes from my editor saying things like, “This seems out of character for her.” Or “His reaction is too strong,” or even, “Not strong enough.”

Whether it’s in word, thought or action, a character’s response to an event or comment, needs to fit not only who the character is becoming, but who they are at their core. Yes, your meek heroine might need to show a little backbone, but does her response show growth and change, that she’s finally standing up for herself, or does she simply come off as rude?

Even as they change, your characters will remain true to their essence.
Finessing a Story

Characters’ journey. 

Reading is about watching someone embark on a journey. Hopefully, your main characters have grown during the course of your story. But will the reader be able to see that growth?

When a baby is born, he or she is completely helpless. Newborns can’t feed themselves. They can’t hold up their little heads. They can't sit up and they’re only mobile when someone carries them from one place to another. Yet week by week, month by month, they change and grow. So by the time baby’s first birthday rolls around, he or she can do all of these things and more. 

No matter how long or short the timeframe of your story, the characters need to grow and change. But don’t just ask yourself what they can do at the end of the story that they couldn’t do at the beginning. Make sure your reader knows how they got there. Show those baby steps of growth along the way. How did the heroine who was deathly afraid of horses end up being comfortable in the saddle? 

And if you’re writing for the Christian market, don’t forget about their spiritual journey.

Writing a book is a process. All of the elements have come together for a story to be successful. Taking the time to finesse will help ensure the finished product is the best it can possibly be.

Now it's your turn. Readers, in your opinion, what makes a good book great? Writers, how do you know when your manuscripts are ready to submit?

Finessing a Story

Award-winning author Mindy Obenhaus is passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. She lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, two sassy pups, countless cattle, deer and the occasional coyote, mountain lion or snake. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, cooking and watching copious amounts of the Hallmark Channel. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com

Who Makes the Meaning in a Book?

 Happy Summer!


School ended yesterday. Today is the first day of summer vacation, so I promise you won't have to read middle school-inspired posts for a while after today.

Who Makes the Meaning in a Book?


But today, we do have one more. I recently read Lord of the Flies with my 8th grade class. The book is old (older than me!) and a lot of people don't like it, but I have so many activities that we do with it, that the book really comes alive. I'm always stunned when students tell me it's one of their favorite books we've read.


This year, after we finished, I asked them to reflect on this quote by the author William Golding.

When asked about the meaning of his book, he replied:

“There have been so many interpretations of the story that I'm not going to choose between them. Make your own choice. They contradict each other, the various choices. The only choice that really matters, the only interpretation of the story, if you want one, is your own. Not your teacher's, not your professor's, not mine, not a critic's, not some authority's. The only thing that matters is, first, the experience of being in the story, moving through it. Then any interpretation you like. If it's yours, then that's the right one, because what's in a book is not what an author thought he put into it, it's what the reader gets out of it.”


I love this answer so much.

I was thinking about it with two different caps on my head - as the teacher who asks students to consider the meaning of the story, but also as an author who is in the business of making meaning out of words.

I was really interested to hear my students' thoughts - both as their teacher and as an author.


It turns out that the line that most spoke to them was  "The only thing that matters is, first, the experience of being in the story, moving through it."


One student, in explaining how she had moved through the story stated, "Through the characters, I got to experience the chaos, the peace, the sadness, and the thrill of everything that happened."

Another said: "In some parts of the book, I felt like I was actually in the book and moving through it. But there were parts where I did not get this feeling. An example where I did not get this feeling is when the hunters went hunting I didn’t really feel the story moving. The part where I felt the story moving along was when everyone was working together and not fighting."

But a third said "There were parts of the book where I felt as if I was really going through the motion of everything and other parts where I was left confused. Some parts that I really connected to were the murders. When both Piggy and Simon died I truly felt like I was there watching it happen."


Another: "I felt like I was  on the island with all the other boys I felt like I was one of the little ones watching everything fold in itself, watching Jack become a brutal savage and watch Ralph losing control and seeing Piggy get killed I really felt part of the story I was reading."



They were also really eager to tell me the meaning they took from the book. I think William Golding would have been proud of the range of thoughts. They took his words to heart: "If it's yours, then that's the right one."



 I think this book was about how people can get insane and out of control with an obsession with a passion, they have while others try and prevent it but end up getting hurt in the process.
 

What are we really without manners and common sense? Savages? That would make us no different than animals. We hide behind a mask of intelligence and basic knowledge to separate how similar we are compared to animals. Without all we have learned, we’re basically just a vessel driven by emotions of hatred and greed. Would we really know right from wrong if we didn’t have common knowledge or at least look like we have the brains? It really felt overwhelming to interpret so much. Then again, it would make sense. The only difference is that we are more evolved than animals. We have the common sense to just go around killing people, there are usually reasons behind it. But sometimes, there isn’t a reason behind it. Does that make us unstable to live in such a “perfect” society? If we compare ourselves to savages, then killing would be completely normal right? Or would it?

 

I believe the book is really about the true nature of us. How we act when theres no adults or rules around. When we can do anything without being punished since theres no boundaries.

This book is about nothing more than boys trying to survive on their own and trying to keep their insanity (sic) in the process. 

 

While the topic of change was a big message of the book, I do believe there is another main message. Lord of the Flies also shows us the importance of rules and civilization. Once the boys turned away from Ralph all humanity and civilization were lost. They began to become too accustomed to Jack’s uncivilized methods. Without any rules or grasp on humanity boys such as Roger turned from normal kind kids into animals. It was because of this lack of civilization and order that Piggy and Simon died so tragically. It was also why it was so hard for the boys to look at themselves once the navy found them. They knew they could never truly return home because a part of them would always be on that island. 



So why am I talking about this today? 


Because as a teacher, I am privileged to have the opportunity to really talk to readers about their reading, and that is invaluable to me not only as their teacher, but as an author. Hearing what matters to them as readers, learning how invested they were in making their own meaning from the books gives  author me something to ponder. 


As authors, are we trying to impose our meaning on our readers? Are we heavy-handed with our message, or do we wield our pen delicately, giving the reader options, offering a chance for them to create their own message from our books. Especially if it's a message they need in their lives.


As I was pondering this, I was also thinking about a book I had recently read. Because I could really relate to the widowed character, I probably took a completely different meaning from the book than a different reader would - and I appreciated the nuances of the character that allowed me to do so.


And that leads me to thinking about craft and how we make our books the best possible experience for readers because, to quote another student, 


He didn't write the book to give it a specific ending (message) but to entertain the readers.


And of course that is what we have to keep at the forefront as we write.


One of my students was rather succinct in describing Golding's craft. 

Mr. Golding used good words to set the mood for the story. 


As writers, that is our task, to use good words to entertain.

If only it could be that easy!

But easy or not, it is the responsibility we assumed when we chose to write stories. Our good words have the power to affect readers.


One of my students commented: "The experiences of reading books helps us to open our eyes to different wonders in imagination. It leads us to creating our own works and maybe inspiring others."


And to finally quote a wise student - "That is the great thing about reading."


And we get to inspire that. How lucky are we to be writers???


I'd love to hear your thoughts - as readers and writers.



Who Makes the Meaning in a Book?


*Photos courtesy of Pixabay

Oh, How Blessed!

 

Oh, How Blessed!

I have never needed to make a big splash with my work.

It didn't matter if I was waiting tables, selling bridal gowns, running a Tupperware business or changing diapers and teaching ABCs to preschoolers, it was never about the splash.

It was always about content.

I take that same mindset into writing. 

I'm not jealous of bestsellers.

I've read some that suck....

And I've read some great ones.

It taught me that some things are subjective. 

And that I can only control so much.

I'm not envious of big buck contracts.

I'm not broke. I can pay my bills. I even started an IRA. To me.... that's rich. As rich as I care to be.

I don't lust after fancy cars.

I drive a 2017 Chevy Traverse, a big SUV that drinks a lot of gas. Remember what Obama said in his book? "Americans like big cars and cheap gas..."

In my book, that just makes us smart. But then I'm a conservative.

I drive that 2017 Traverse for our farm.... I drive it for grandkids. I drive it on research trips now that the world has come to its senses and reopened. I drive it because I spent over a decade driving tiny cars (Neons and a Chevy Cruze) and saving my money to drive an SUV.

I always wanted an SUV... I couldn't afford it. So I waited. Because it wasn't worth being broke for, right? It's a car.... But it's a big car and I can fit over a hundred pumpkins in the back of that bad boy.

I call her "The Tank".

And I love driving it. 

But that's not the same as envying others' successes.

I love seeing people succeed. It's a good thing! Most of the time, that is.

Sometimes they fall down. Sometimes they mess up. Mess up contracts, don't write the books, don't get it done for whatever reason.

There's something to be said for waiting your turn at the watering hole. For waiting in line at the playground. For studying the textbook before the exam. Preparation. Preparation is key. It's clutch. It matters.

Oh, How Blessed!

Ruthy's latest Love Inspired Book, her third "Kendrick Creek" story! 

AVAILABLE HERE!

If you skin your knee a few times, you hang on tighter to the bike. Or you take the curve slower. 

If you get bit up by skeeters ten ways to Sunday, you start putting "OFF" on earlier in the day.

If you've been passed over for contracts a few times you realize how important, special and amazing they are. 

I trust in God.

I trust in His timing.

But nowhere in the Good Book does it say that we should rest while waiting for good things to happen. And that whole Mary and Martha deal?

I'm a Martha and proud of it. Not because Martha was better than Mary or vice versa, but because they should both be celebrated.

So I work hard.

I laugh. I cry. I help others. I bake lots of good stuff, I write great stories and I grow a lot of pumpkins with a lot of help from others.

Yes... I am blessed. So blessed! And smart enough, old enough and wise enough to know it.

So bring on the contracts.... bring on the indies... bring on whatever opportunities God has in store for me because as long as I'm breathing, living, laughing.... I'll be writing.

Because there's nothing like having to wait to have your dreams come true to make those dreams even more special than you ever in your life thought they could be.

Oh.... How blessed! 


Oh, How Blessed!
Multi-published, bestselling inspirational author Ruth Logan Herne is blessed... we know that because she just told us so! With around 70 books and novellas published, Ruthy splits her time between their family pumpkin farm and writing sweet books while balancing a whole slew of kids, grandkids, friends and family.... Counting those blessings! Stop by her website http://ruthloganherne.com or friend her on Facebook.... or email Ruthy at loganherne@gmail.com. She loves to hear from readers! 

Another Winter Gone

 It's a saying we use up north and it's usually uttered cryptically, sarcastically or candidly ..

"Got through another winter."

There may be a wry note or a hike of expectation. It might be a declaration of success or an anticipation that no matter what you do, winter will come again.

"Got through another winter."

It's funny... and sometimes sad. Sad because not everyone makes it through a rough winter. It's not a guarantee.

I was thinking of this the other day as we were organizing the attic. My attic is finished. It's got two finished rooms, long before the advent of "bonus rooms" in houses up here.

FYI: Bonus rooms are a clever way of getting around a bigger septic system because the size of your septic system here is governed by the number of bedrooms in your house. So a 4 bedroom house must have a bigger system than a 3 bedroom or 2 bedroom and septic systems here are five-figure investments... So that adds up really quick. So houses have begun incorporating "bonus rooms" so that they're not flagged for a bigger, pricier septic system.

I love my attic. At least I will love it again when it's cleared out, so between yesterday and today we organized, filled totes, labeled and moved all those books to the big shed. The sales shed is 14' x 36' so it's like a small house. :) We love this shed. Built by a formerly Amish family in Pennsylvania, they trailered it up last spring and I honestly don't know what we did without it! But I digress, the two-room attic had become a hidden harbor for books. 

Another Winter Gone

So many books! My books! The generosity of publishers meant I had hundreds of books to give away every year so even if I had 50 books that didn't get given away, over 11 years, that's 550 extra books. :) That's a lot of books.  So we've been doing book giveaways for assisted living centers, nursing homes, senior apartments or neighborhoods, fundraisers... we've been making sure that we're getting them out there, but there were still enough to fill 14 plastic totes of varying sizes, but we got smart.... We sorted them, got appropriately sized totes, labeled them and they're all living in their own spot in the big sales shed... My goal to reclaim my attic is near at hand. :) 

What does reclaiming the attic have to do with writing or books or winter?

Stories are created in a step-by-step fashion. They're never a single entity, they're a blending of setting, characters, plot, angst, desire, goals, conflict and resolution, and when an author finishes a book... when we do that last round of edits, that final polish, that slice-and-dice to tighten the laces on a really great new pair of boots, it's like clearing out the attic. Or a closet. Or a pantry. It's that feeling of success and satisfaction. Only--

At least at Blodgett Family Farm--

No one pays me to clean a closet or an attic or a room or anything, LOL! 

But they do pay me to write books, and that's a wonderful reason to finish the book, wrap it up, take a deep breath and move on to the next one.

In my life there's always another room to clean and in my professional life (so far)...

There's always another book to write because it's a lot like getting through another winter. The truth is that I love writing stories...

And I actually like winter because there's nothing like the anticipation of spring and color and grass and flowers and warmth once you've mastered winter. It's a natural high...

So I'm happy to say...

"Got through another winter."

And we're mighty glad it's spring! 

Another Winter Gone



Another Winter Gone

Bestselling inspirational author Ruth Logan Herne is living the life she dreamed of a long time ago when she was a little girl, longing to write the stories she loved to read. Here she is, author of nearly 70 books and co-owner of a popular pumpkin farm that delights old and young alike. Come see her on the farm, friend her on Facebook, email Ruthy at loganherne@gmail.com , visit her website or visit with her here in Seekerville. She makes a mean cup of coffee and loves to chat with people! 


The In-Between Times

Erica here. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends!

The In-Between Times



Here we are, on the Monday between Christmas and New Years. It’s a bit of a limbo time. The big rush of Christmas Day has passed, the gift giving, the caroling, the feasting is mostly done. And we’re days away from New Year’s.

But the kids are still home from school, there are still some family gatherings to navigate, and the need to start thinking about removing decorations begins in the back of your mind. You're stuck in the 'in-between' time.

In the writing life, there are lots of ‘in-between’ times, too.

  • The time between when you decide to write a novel and when that novel is completed.
  • The time between when you submit a novel to an agent or editor and when you hear back.
  • The time between when you hear from your agent that she is submitting your work to a publisher and when you hear a verdict on the submission.
  • The time between when you get the call from your agent that a publisher is offering a contract and when that contract arrives and you can FINALLY share about it.
  • The time between when you sign the contract and when you get your first edits, second edits, third edits, cover art, a release date, a marketing plan, and FINALLY hold the book in your hot little hands.
  • The time between when book one and book two release.
  • The time between your first contract and when you might get another one.

As you can see, there are lots of ‘between’ times, and these are only a few you may encounter. So what is a writer to do in those ‘between’ times?

This may sound boring, but the number one thing a writer should do is…WRITE. If you’ve submitted a novel to an agent, don’t sit by the inbox waiting. Write the next book. If you’re waiting to hear from a publisher, write the next book. If you’re waiting on edits from your publisher, write the next book.

With so much ‘between’ time factored into the writing life, it can be easy to fritter away the days, waiting, thinking, doing all the things that aren’t writing. But writers write. That’s all there is to it. Write a novella as a lead magnet for your newsletter. If you don’t have a contract currently, write the next book. Start a new series, target a specific publisher, and write the book!

Perhaps you won’t write at the same fever-pitch as when you have a solid deadline, but don’t waste time either.

The In-Between Times

 

Why, you ask?

1. Writer’s write, and your writing muscles will atrophy if you don’t use them.

2. More than one agent has gone to a client and said, “A publisher needs X in a hurry. Do you have anything that will fit?” If you’ve been resting on your laurels instead of writing, your answer will always be, ‘Um, nope.’ (Sad face emoji.)

3. If a publisher is interested in  you, they may very well ask, “What else do you have?” And believe me, you want to have lots of completed things to show them.

Those are just some of the reasons you don’t want to squander the in-between times. Rather than sit and be frustrated at not getting any news, get your fingers on that keyboard and create something new! Be a good steward of your writing time and opportunities, and don't waste the 'between times!'

The In-Between Times
Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes in this new Regency mystery series

Newly returned from finishing school, Lady Juliette Thorndike is ready to debut in London society. Due to her years away, she hasn't spent much time with her parents, and sees them only as the flighty, dilettante couple the other nobles love. But when they disappear, she discovers she never really knew them at all. They've been living double lives as government spies--and they're only the latest in a long history of espionage that is the family's legacy.

Now Lady Juliette is determined to continue their work. Mentored by her uncle, she plunges into the dangerous world of spy craft. From the glittering ballrooms of London to the fox hunts, regattas, and soirees of country high society, she must chase down hidden clues, solve the mysterious code her parents left behind, and stay out of danger. All the while, she has to keep her endeavors a secret from her best friend and her suitors--not to mention nosy, irritatingly handsome Bow Street runner Daniel Swann, who suspects her of a daring theft.

Can Lady Juliette outwit her enemies and complete her parents' last mission? Or will it lead her to a terrible end?

The Debutante's Code is now out in the world! You can get your copy HERE: https://amzn.to/3GQnoZt Or wherever you buy your fiction! 

The In-Between Times


Best-selling, award-winning author Erica Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. She’s a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota, and she is married to her total opposite and soul mate! When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. You can connect with her at her website, www.ericavetsch.com where you can read about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at https://www.facebook.com/EricaVetschAuthor/ where she spends way too much time!




 

 






You Survived Your Book Launch. Now What?

 You Survived Your Book Launch. Now What?

by Jill Kemerer

It’s been five weeks since your book released. The months leading up to it were exciting and, yes, chaotic. You did whatever you could to get the word about that bad boy out there. You poured time and energy into making the launch as impactful as possible, and yet, you wonder was it enough? Reviews trickle in—some good, some not-so-good. You can’t seem to shake this deflated feeling.

Everyone’s moved on from your book. Everyone except you.

Now you’re sitting on your couch, sipping tea, trying to figure out what to do next. You mentally tick through what you should be doing.

Writing, duh. But the thought of getting back into that manuscript sends a cold shiver down your spine. You have forty-three pages written.

They are not good pages.

The urge to post on your social media sites hits you strong. You need to stay relevant, right? But what would you even post about? You’ve spent so much time and effort promoting the book, it feels weird to go back to normal.

Maybe that’s the problem. You don’t want to go back to normal. Can’t every day be launch day? Can’t every day be special and exciting and full of celebrating a book you wrote?

Unfortunately, no.

You wish there was some way to check your numbers. Or, if you self-published the book, you check your numbers. All. The. Time.

Are my sales good? Bad? How do they compare to other authors in my genre?

You don’t know. You won’t know. You will never truly know how your sales compare to your peers.

Did I earn out my advance? What happens if I didn’t? Will this contract be my last?

Frowning, you take another sip of tea. And lunge for the nearby muffin.

Slowly it hits you that this is it. You’re back to the same you before you had a book launch to plan. You splashed in the happy waters of a book-release summer, then slid into the autumn of ongoing promotion, and now you’re staring down the writer’s winter.

Work lies ahead, and this winter is cold.

As you sit there, you force yourself to block all those pesky thoughts about sales. You ignore Facebook. And you breathe. A sense of relief tickles the edges of your funk. For it is a funk.

But it’s one that can end at any time.

After brushing off the muffin crumbs from your fingers, you finish your tea and turn on your laptop. You open a file containing that dreadful draft, all forty-three pages of it. For a moment, you close your eyes and say a prayer. Then you start to read.

It’s bad.

But ten pages in, you’re kind of digging it. You clean up a few paragraphs. Jot down some notes.

And there you have it. You’re writing again.

You start thinking ahead to when this book will release. Then you chuckle and shake your head. You have to write it first. And it hits you. This is the fun part, too.

Do you struggle with the feeling of letdown after a book release? How do you deal with it?

Leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of Jill's new release, The Prodigal's Holiday Hope (paperback for US, ebook for international)

You Survived Your Book Launch. Now What?

He’s learned from his mistakes…

But can he prove he’s changed?

 

When Sawyer Roth is hired to work on his childhood ranch, he knows he has a damaged reputation to repair. Tess Malone, the new ranch owner’s daughter, is the hardest to win over. But as Christmas approaches, Tess and her toddler son find a way into Sawyer’s heart. He lost everything the last time he put his trust in love. Can he risk it all again?

 

Click HERE for Purchase Links and More


 

You Survived Your Book Launch. Now What?

Jill Kemerer is a Publishers Weekly bestselling author of heartwarming, emotional, small-town romance novels often featuring cowboys. Over half a million of her books have sold worldwide. Jill's essentials include coffee, caramels, a stack of books, her mini-doxie, and long walks outdoors. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two almost-grown children. For more information, visit her website,jillkemerer.com.

 

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Polishing Your Manuscript

Polishing Your Manuscript

by Mindy Obenhaus

Congratulations! You’ve labored for months (maybe years) and, finally, your manuscript is complete. It’s out of your head and on the page. You can’t wait for your editor to read it. But, slow down. Before you hit Send, have you made sure your shiny new manuscript truly shines? Or could it use a little polishing?

This is where I currently find myself in the writing process. I’m almost ready to send off another manuscript, but not until it undergoes a little polishing. This means I have to read the story in its entirety with a few specific things in mind.

Flow. Does the story move smoothly, or does it feel disjointed? Sometimes I’ve got the right stuff, it’s just in the wrong order. By shifting around a couple of scenes or even approaching the scene from a different POV, things feel more organic, like they were meant to be that way. Sometimes I have to delete things. Flow is important. If something trips you up or doesn’t feel right, then some tweaking might be in order.

Continuity. Things sometimes change as I’m writing.

  • Character names. Like when my heroine’s mother’s boyfriend was named Jerry and I soon discovered that reading “Mom and Jerry” in a sentence had my mind conjuring up images of a certain cat and mouse. So, Jerry became Bill. However, the Replace function doesn’t always catch everything, so it’s good to double check.
  • Descriptions. Everything from hair color to eye color needs to be consistent. Unless, of course, your character colors their hair midway through the story or is wearing colored contact lens. This also applies to…
  • Setting. If I don’t have a clear vision of a setting in my head from the onset of the story, it’s apt to change. As someone who’s used both real and fictitious settings in my books, I can honestly say this is where a real setting is an advantage. Still, the places in which your scenes take place can evolve during the writing process. What I thought I wanted at the beginning isn’t necessarily how they remain, so I need to make sure I’m consistent throughout the story.

Tightening. Do I have repeated words? Can sentences be rephrased to be more succinct? Do I really need all that description of something in chapter six after I’ve already talked about it in chapter two?

Hooks and chapter endings.This is important. We don’t want a reader to sigh with contentment as they close the book at the end of chapter seven, set the book aside and go to sleep. No, we want to leave them hanging so they can’t wait to move onto chapter eight. Some of the greatest compliments a writer can hear are things like, “I couldn’t put it down,” or “You kept me up late because I couldn’t stop reading.” Save the satisfying ending for the end of the book. But hook the reader at the end of each scene so they want to keep reading.

Completing your manuscript is always something to be celebrated. But don’t be so eager to send it off that you overlook that all important polishing process. Remember, the hard work is already done. So you may as well take just a little more time to make sure it shines.

Writers, what tips do you have for polishing your manuscripts? Readers, what makes a book one you can’t put down? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of my upcoming release, Their Yuletide Healing (print US only, digital for international). And check out the book trailer HERE!

Polishing Your Manuscript

As her plans unravel, can she give her children what they truly need?

Foster mom Rae Girard’s determined to make her children’s first Christmas with her the best they’ve ever had—and she’s shocked when the town scrooge, attorney Cole Heinsohn, offers to pitch in. Rae’s young charges have melted Cole’s heart, and he wants them to experience the special day he never had. But when disaster strikes, an imperfect holiday might bring them something better: a family…


Polishing Your Manuscript

Award-winning author Mindy Obenhaus is passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. She lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, two sassy pups, countless cattle, deer and the occasional coyote, mountain lion or snake. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, cooking and watching copious amounts of the Hallmark Channel. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com

Four Tips to Distancing Distractions to Get the Writing Done

Four Tips to Distancing Distractions to Get the Writing Done

by Lisa Jordan

I glanced at my calendar to see what today’s to-do list entailed. I saw I had a blog post due for Seekerville. I’d been pondering a topic, but nothing concrete had come to mind. I decided to work on something else and then I’d go back to the blog post.

As I began working on my characters’ backstories for my new novel, I sneezed, reached for a tissue, and realized I had grabbed the last one. So I broke down the box, tossed it in the recycling and went to retrieve a new box. But along the way, my dog needed to go outside, so I took her to the door. On the way back to get the box of tissues, I noticed an empty dish in the living room. I grabbed it and took it to the kitchen. I set it in the sink and realized I had started to brew a cup of tea but never finished it. I carried the reheated tea back to my writing chair and started to sit when my dog scratched at the door to come back inside. I let her in, gave her a treat, then refilled her water dish. On the way back from the kitchen I glanced at the few dishes in the sink and decided to put them in the dishwasher. But first I needed to empty it. As I emptied the dishwasher, a puddle of water from an upturned bowl spilled on the floor. So I grabbed a towel and wiped it up. I tossed the towel in the bathroom hamper and noticed my hair brush still on the counter. I put it away, then decided to give the bathroom a quick wipe-down. I returned to the kitchen, finished the dishwasher, and reloaded the few dirty dishes. I gave the counters a quick wipe, then headed back to my computer. I sat, grabbed my cup of tea, and then sneezed again.

I had forgotten to grab the fresh box of tissues.

Okay, I admit not all of my days go like this. I can be pretty linear with my to-do list—I focus on one job until it’s done. However, there are days when my mental train of thought would be a good plot for Laura Numeroff’s If You Give… series. And the same goes when it’s time to write. If I’m not focused on that day’s particular goal, I’m as distracted as Dug in Up.

So how’s a writer to distance himself or herself from distractions when the writing needs to get done?

Many of us who frequent Seekerville on a regular basis have multitudes of distractions every day. We have spouses, families, careers, additional day jobs, church responsibilities, pets, community engagements, and extracurricular activities to manage.

I’m the kind of person who needs to plan out my day. If I don’t, then I don’t have the right focus to get things done. I also like a routine, and that goes for my writing as well. I don’t thrive in chaos. So when life throws curveballs, I do try to be flexible by rolling with flare-ups need to be dealt with that day.

Four Tips to Distancing Distractions to Get the Writing Done

When I’m on deadline, though, I need focused time to get my writing done so I can submit on time. So here are my four tips for distancing distractions:

  1. Plan. Like I said, I’m a planner. I use My Book Therapy’s My Brilliant Writing Planner to map out my story goals, my monthly appointments, events, and deadlines. Then I break down my monthly goals into weekly to-dos. Each day, I write out a to-do list of what needs to be done. I begin with the top three important tasks, then I add in less important things such as housework and laundry. 
  2. Pray. Once I have an idea of what my week is going to be, I give it up to God and ask Him to order my time. I also ask for peace when I need to be flexible and not to stress when I don’t meet my writing goals for the day. Most of all, I want to stay centered in His will and use my time wisely. 
  3. Pause. When it’s time to write, I pause to reflect on what I had written the day before and where I need to take my characters on their story adventures. Then I pause notifications on email, social media, texting, and phone calls. My phone is set up to allow my family to notify me if it’s important. 
  4. Protect. In addition to being an author, I’m also the content manager for My Book Therapy’s online writing school, Novel Academy, so I don’t have all day to write. I’ve always worked an additional day job along with my writing, so I’ve had to protect my writing time. I try to write for two hours in the mornings when my brain is the freshest, then I can use the rest of the day for housework, appointments, and my day job. In order to get the words written, I need to protect that writing time. Sometimes that writing block does get interrupted, but I usually know in advance and can plan a separate writing block accordingly so I can still meet my word count.  

These habits, while not perfect, have helped me to establish the necessary boundaries and writing routine in order to grow my career.

Your Turn: What do you do to distance distractions so you can get words on the page. 

Mindy here. Lisa is giving away a copy of her new release, The Father He Deserves, to one lucky commenter (US mailing addresses only, please). 

Four Tips to Distancing Distractions to Get the Writing Done

A determined dad. A wary mother.

Making amends is never easy… Injured in a kayaking accident, champion Evan Holland returns home to train rescue dogs. But his unexpected partner is the woman he left behind, Natalie Bishop. And she has a secret: a son Evan never knew he had. Now Evan must prove he can be a real father. But earning Natalie’s trust back will take hope, forgiveness—and risking everything on forever…

Four Tips to Distancing Distractions to Get the Writing Done

Heart, home, and faith have always been important to Lisa Jordan, so writing stories with those elements come naturally. Represented by Cynthia Ruchti of Books & Such Literary Management, Lisa is an award-winning author for Love Inspired, writing contemporary Christian romances that promise hope and happily ever after. Her latest book, The Father He Deserves, releases in July 2021. She is the content manager for Novel Academy, powered by My Book Therapy. Happily married to her own real-life hero for over thirty years, Lisa and her husband have two grown sons. When she isn’t writing, Lisa enjoys quality family time and being creative with words, photos, fibers, and papers. Learn more about her at lisajordanbooks.com.

  

From HS Creative Writing Assignment to Debut Novel: The Evolution of Matty ReddIncorporating Real-Life Events into Your StoryFinessing a Story Who Makes the Meaning in a Book?Oh, How Blessed! Another Winter GoneThe In-Between TimesYou Survived Your Book Launch. Now What?Polishing Your ManuscriptFour Tips to Distancing Distractions to Get the Writing Done

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