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Building Bridges by Cathy Gohlke

 ~ 5 Ways No Creek Built Community and We Can, Too ~

 

In my novels Night Bird Calling and A Hundred Crickets Singing, the rural and remote town of No Creek represents a microcosm of our world. Different races, different nationalities, different ideologies live and sometimes war in this small town. As with any group of people, they need to build bridges to ease tensions, to strengthen and build community. Here’s how they do it—and how we can, too.

Building Bridges by Cathy GohlkeBuilding Bridges by Cathy Gohlke

1.
   In Night Bird Calling, a family of means decides to share their wealth of books with the community by opening a lending library in their home. They recognize a need within their community and fill it. What do you have that your community needs and that you can join with others to share?


2.      To introduce their lending library to the community Miss Lill and Celia ask the pastors of No Creek’s churches to invite their congregations to a celebratory tea to open the library. Making neighbors feel welcome by offering food and drink, along with a little music (Joe Earl’s fiddle playing and the harmony of the Saints Delight Church choir), goes a long way toward introducing them to the library. Sometimes we just need to invite people to join us. It helps when trusted voices—like the pastors in No Creek—affirm or extend the invitation. What trusted voices can you call on to endorse efforts to build community?


3.     Celia’s rendition of the Christmas pageant in No Creek is unconventional, to say the least, but it brings to life the plight of refugees with real and desperate needs and gives the community the opportunity to help them. Though there’s nothing like seeing a crisis firsthand to spur people to action, sometimes it helps to create a picture people can understand—like a theatre production or a painting or photography exhibit. How can you show others a human need that requires action?


4.     In A Hundred Crickets Singing, Joe convinces the Willards and the Percys to help him create an Italian feast to bring the community together. He says it was what the grandmothers in his old Italian neighborhood did to ease troubles between warring grown children. A little music, a little dancing, and great food is Joe’s prescription. It also helps that those attending have to learn something entirely new in order to eat the food. They’ve never eaten spaghetti and have to learn how to twirl the slippery pasta onto their forks. It places everyone on a similar footing and creates lots of fun and laughter. What sort of event can you imagine where people might learn or participate in something new, without risking too much embarrassment, to encourage them to laugh with one another? Laughter is known as the “best medicine” for good reason, releasing tension and bringing people together.


5.     No Creek desperately needs a medical clinic that will serve everyone, regardless of race. While there is no denying the stubborn stance and laws of segregation at the time, those who are willing find a path forward despite the resistance they face. Two things help unite the races and the community. First, women in the community, together with trusted pastors, endorse the project and meet personally with other women—often overlooked community members who can gain the ear of their husbands. Second, once the leaders of the building project finalize details, members of both churches—Shady Grove and Saints Delight—are encouraged by their pastors to help build the medical clinic. This gives everyone an opportunity to contribute labor even if they cannot contribute money, giving them a stake and pride in the clinic. It also provides an opportunity to labor together and iron out differences created on the job, building relationships that might extend into the future. Together they witness the growing and finished product of their combined labor. Sometimes we need a project to pool our resources. Financial commitments are good, but there is no substitute for laboring together to build something important for the good of all. Is there a project your community might benefit from that would require many hands and hearts to achieve? How will you go about it, and who can you enlist to help?


Communities, families, schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and towns grow through communication and interaction. Recognizing a need, drawing in trusted voices to recognize and demonstrate that need to others, engaging others and making them feel welcome in a way that reduces tensions or animosity, and working together to address the need are all keys to building bridges and a better tomorrow.

 

About the Author

Building Bridges by Cathy Gohlke

Four-time Christy and two-time Carol and INSPY Award–winning author Cathy Gohlke writes novels steeped with inspirational lessons from history. Her stories reveal how people break the chains that bind them and triumph over adversity through faith. When not traveling to historic sites for research, she and her husband, Dan, divide their time between northern Virginia and the Jersey Shore, enjoying time with their grown children and grandchildren.

 

Visit her website at cathygohlke.com and find her on Facebook at CathyGohlkeBooks.

 

 

About A Hundred Crickets Singing

Building Bridges by Cathy Gohlke

In wars eighty years apart, two young women living on the same Appalachian estate determine to aid soldiers dear to them and fight for justice, no matter the cost.

1944. When a violent storm rips through the Belvidere attic in No Creek, North Carolina, exposing a hidden room and trunk long forgotten, secrets dating back to the Civil War are revealed. Celia Percy, whose family lives and works in the home, suspects the truth could transform the future for her friend Marshall, now fighting overseas, whose ancestors were once enslaved by the Belvidere family. When Marshall’s Army friend, Joe, returns to No Creek with shocking news for Marshall’s family, Celia determines to right a long-standing wrong, whether or not the town is ready for it.

1861. After her mother’s death, Minnie Belvidere works desperately to keep her household running and her family together as North Carolina secedes. Her beloved older brother clings to his Union loyalties, despite grave danger, while her hotheaded younger brother entangles himself and the family’s finances within the Confederacy. As the country and her own home are torn in two, Minnie risks her life and her future in a desperate fight to gain liberty and land for those her parents intended to free, before it’s too late.

With depictions of a small Southern town “reminiscent of writings by Lisa Wingate” (Booklist on Night Bird Calling), Cathy Gohlke delivers a gripping, emotive story about friendship and the enduring promise of justice.


Leave a comment for Cathy below for a chance to win a copy of A Hundred Crickets Singing.

(Subject to Seekerville and Tyndale House Publishers Giveaway terms. U.S. mailing addresses only.)

Writing the Book Blurb - Part 2

 

Writing the Book Blurb - Part 2

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Back in January I posted about writing book blurbs (you can read that post HERE) and promised you a Part 2. So today I'm delivering on that promise.

First a caveat - this is just my thoughts on what makes up a good blurb. There are likely other methods that are as effective if not more so.

 

First let’s talk about what goes into a blurb.
I consider that these the four components are the minimum of what you need.to create an effective blurb. 

  • The Tag Line
  • The Characters:
  • The Conflict:
  • The Close:

 

For the purposes of this series of posts, I’m going to use the blurb from the first book I had to craft a blurb for all on my own. We’ll look at what I did right, what I did wrong, and what I might do differently today. It’s for my book The Unexpected Bride, an April 2019 release. It reads as follows: 

 

Writing the Book Blurb - Part 2
Fleeing an arranged marriage, socialite Elthia Sinclare accepts a governess position halfway across the country. But when she arrives in Texas she finds more than she bargained for - more children, more work and more demands. Because Caleb Tanner wants a bride, not a governess. But marrying this unrefined stranger is better than what awaits her back home, so Elthia strikes a deal for a temporary marriage. She says I do and goes to work—botching the housework, butting heads with her new spouse, loving the children.

Caleb isn’t sure what to make of this woman who isn’t at all what he contracted for—she’s spoiled, unskilled and lavishes her affection on a lap dog that seems to be little more than a useless ball of fluff.  But to his surprise she gets along well with the children, works hard to acquire domestic skills and is able to hold her own with the town matriarchs.

Could the mistake that landed him with this unexpected bride be the best thing that ever happened to him?

 

 

So today I want to dig into the first component.

The Tagline.

Technically, the tagline is optional, but I think having one adds a little extra punch to your blurb. The Tagline, also called a log line, is a very short teaser, designed to hook the reader and introduce the tone of the book. There are several different ways to approach this.


  1. You can do the A meets B format. Here’s an example
    Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes in this new Regency mystery series
    (from Erica Vetsch’s Jan 2022 release The Debutante’s Code)

    Another version of this format is to simply reference to the genre/tropes you’re mashing together – i.e. A regency era female turns detective in this new mystery series. (My apology to Erica if I didn’t properly capture the tone of her book)

  2. You can pose a question, as in this one
    As her plans unravel, can she give her children what they truly need?
    (from Mindy Obenhaus’s Nov 2021 release Their Yuletide Healing)

  3. Then there’s the contrast method.
  4. She mixed danger, desperation, and deception together. Love was not the expected outcome.
    (from Mary Connealy’s March 2022 release The Element of Love)

  5.  And lastly, you can simply showcase the heart of the story as was done in the blurb for my upcoming May 2022 release Her Amish Springtime Miracle.
    In this delightful and heartwarming novel, an orphaned baby brings together an unlikely couple who learn the true meaning of family.


Unfortunately, I didn’t include a tagline for The Unexpected Bride (shame on me!). So if I were to try to craft one today, how would I go about it? Well, let’s see how it might look using each of the four methods above.

Using method one:  A runaway heiress must serve as housekeeper and nanny in this accidental Mail Order Bride story

Using the second method:   Can a klutzy socialite who ends up far from home provide the care and love six orphaned children and their determined uncle so desperately need?

Using the third method:   She ran away from home to escape an unwanted engagement. So how did she end up agreeing to marry a disagreeable stranger?

And using the last method:   In this heartwarming story, an inept runaway socialite must build a loving home for six orphaned children and their much too serious uncle.

So which one would I actually use? The test would be which one I thought provides the best hook while remaining true to the story.  Right now I'm thinking it would be the third one.

A couple of tips:

  • Just because the tagline appears at the top of your blurb doesn’t mean it needs to be created first. If you’re having problems figuring it out, craft the rest of your blurb first and then come back to it. Hopefully the key tone and story essence you want to convey will pop out to you then
  • To figure out what part of your book would make the best hook, ask yourself what is most unique or interesting about your story. 

 

Writing the Book Blurb - Part 2
 

There you have it, my notes on how to craft your book blurb’s tagline. Next time we'll look at the second component, the characters.

So do you have any questions? Do you agree with this approach? Would you have chosen (or crafted) a different tagline for TUB than the one I chose? 

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a book from my backlist

And if you're interested in learning more about The Unexpected Bride or ordering a copy, click HERE

 

 

 

 

 


My Obsession with Research

By Michelle Shocklee

 

I often wonder what my high school history teacher would think if he knew I grew up to become an author of historical fiction. He would no doubt be quite surprised considering my utter lack of interest in bygone eras while spending time in his classroom. Dates, facts, ancient events. Blah. Who cares? I often wondered as he droned on and on about wars and people whose names were faintly recognizable . . . although I couldn’t tell you why.

 

Fast-forward to my late twenties, when I discovered that I not only enjoyed reading historical fiction but found deep satisfaction in writing it as well. And, as every historical author knows, it’s the research into those once-dreaded dates, facts, and ancient events that breathes life into the story. I can’t get enough of them now.

 

You might even say I’m obsessed with research.


My Obsession with Research

My latest novel, Count the Nights by Stars, is a split-time story. With each of the settings being historical, I had the wonderful task of researching two vastly different time periods. When I’m in the throes of writing a new novel, research books litter my desk and the floor surrounding my chair. Websites on historical happenings are constantly open, articles are printed, and I find there simply isn’t enough time in each day to read and research all the fascinating facts about my chosen topic.


After my husband and I moved to the Nashville area in 2017, I was like a sponge soaking up Tennessee’s captivating history. I grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico (which has a captivating history of its own I plan to write about someday), and lived in Texas for thirty years after marrying a Texan, so I’d never given much thought to Tennessee. Sure, I knew Nashville was famous for country music and the Grand Ole Opry, but after moving here I discovered a rich history that had nothing to do with music. Those discoveries would eventually inspire me to write my Christy Award‒nominated novel Under the Tulip Tree. But because I’d learned so many interesting things about Nashville’s history through my research that weren’t included in that book, I knew I had to write another one. This time the two historical stars would be the Tennessee Centennial Exposition of 1897 and the famed Maxwell House Hotel.

My Obsession with Research


To help readers envision the exposition, I needed to go beyond mere description. I had to make the expo grounds come alive with sights, smells, and sounds. This is true in any novel, but it is especially true in historical fiction because modern-day readers can’t place themselves in the setting the way they can with a contemporary story. Historical authors must, must, must bring history to life, and to do that we need to know the facts. Yes, those dry, boring facts we despised in history class now become lifeblood to our books. Without them, readers can’t experience the setting with the characters, which becomes a real problem for both the author and the reader.


One of the methods I used to help bring history alive in Count the Nights by Stars was to study photographs of the exposition grounds. Every black-and-white photograph—and there are hundreds of them—reveals large and minute details I incorporated into the story. For instance, while describing Vanity Fair, the amusement area of the fairgrounds, I let my heroine, Priscilla, and her group enjoy spicy pork sandwiches from the Cuban Village while sitting on the banks of Lake Watauga in the warm June sunshine. They discuss what they see—the Parthenon, the Egyptian pyramid-shaped Memphis building, and the giant seesaw—while feeding crusty ends of their sandwiches to the ducks. In those few paragraphs, the reader not only visualizes the setting but imagines the flavors and sounds as well.

My Obsession with Research


Historical photographs also allowed me to place Priscilla and Luca under the newly invented electric lights of the fairgrounds at night, which was especially vital for a pivotal scene. Had I not known electric lights had been employed throughout the fairgrounds, my characters would have been wandering around in the dark. My research also provided schedules and routes for electric streetcars running to and from the exposition, which was essential information at different points in the story. I hope readers of Count the Nights by Stars will truly experience the exposition in their imaginations.


My Obsession with Research


The Maxwell House Hotel is the other main location that appears in both time periods. Priscilla and her family stay at the hotel during their visit to the exposition in 1897, while Audrey and her family live in the hotel manager’s apartment in 1961. Even though it was the same hotel, I might as well have been writing about two separate places. Time had not been the old hotel’s friend, and by 1961 it was a run-down residential hotel rather than the grand dame of Nashville as it had once been. The detailed language I used to describe the magnificent hotel in 1897 was not applicable in the 1961 story. That’s where extensive research came in. Using old newspaper articles, firsthand accounts, and archived pictures, I was able to accurately describe the once-gleaming hotel as it was in 1961.


Writers often ask this question: When do you have enough research?

My answer: Never . . . but you eventually must stop researching and start writing!


Have you read a book where the setting positively came alive in your imagination because of the author’s description? Tell me about it!


(Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Count the Night by Stars).**


ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

My Obsession with Research
Michelle Shocklee is the author of several historical novels, including Under the Tulip Tree, a Christy Award finalist. Her work has been included in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul books, magazines, and blogs. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of two grown sons, she makes her home in Tennessee, not far from the historical sites she writes about. Visit her online at michelleshocklee.com.

 



 ABOUT COUNT THE NIGHT BY THE STARS

My Obsession with Research
Count your nights by stars, not shadows. Count your life with smiles, not tears.

1961. After a longtime resident at Nashville’s historic Maxwell House Hotel suffers a debilitating stroke, Audrey Whitfield is tasked with cleaning out the reclusive woman’s room. There, she discovers an elaborate scrapbook filled with memorabilia from the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Love notes on the backs of unmailed postcards inside capture Audrey’s imagination with hints of a forbidden romance . . . and troubling revelations about the disappearance of young women at the exposition. Audrey enlists the help of a handsome hotel guest as she tracks down clues and information about the mysterious “Peaches” and her regrets over one fateful day, nearly sixty-five years earlier.

1897. Outspoken and forward-thinking Priscilla Nichols isn’t willing to settle for just any man. She’s still holding out hope for love when she meets Luca Moretti on the eve of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Charmed by the Italian immigrant’s boldness, Priscilla spends time exploring the wonderous sights of the expo with Luca—until a darkness overshadows the monthslong event. Haunted by a terrible truth, Priscilla and Luca are sent down separate paths as the night’s stars fade into dawn.

Count the Night by Stars releases on March 22, 2022. 



**Giveaway prize courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers. Subject to Seekerville and Tyndale House Publishers' Giveaway terms. US mailing address only. Thank you.

Are We Living a Kaleidoscope Life?

 by Diann Mills


Kaleidoscopes show us the many characteristics of light and color. With the twist of the wrist, mirrors and colored pieces of material, usually glass, reflect beauty in various shapes. Each glimpse of the art becomes a gift for those who appreciate a dynamic creation. Much like each one of us is a unique gift to the world.

How we react to life’s ups and downs reflects how we examine and process life. Every experience fuels an emotion that adds light and color to our image. We can choose to enjoy the splendor and cultivate hope, or we can block every hint of it.

The most ordinary of shapes are made spectacular through a kaleidoscope’s lenses. Similarly, ordinary lives become extraordinary when courageous people choose to defy odds that could otherwise keep them chained to a dull, formless worldview.

A display of lives explodes across the horizon. People empty themselves of selfishness and greed to let goodness mirror their actions.

  • An underprivileged youth works hard to attend college and help his siblings continue their education.
  • A woman forsakes a life of abuse and seeks counseling.
  • A retired couple forms a nonprofit to help military personnel who are struggling with PTSD.
  • A wealthy businessman sells his firm to serve as a missionary.
  • A group of neighborhood teens does odd jobs for shut-ins.

To live a kaleidoscope life, we use all our resources to war against the dark, ugly shapes that have the power to stagnate our mental, spiritual, and physical growth. Our yesterdays do not define us, and we are determined to turn heartache and pain into a life lesson that makes us stronger.

We need setbacks to help us focus on what is important. Most of the time, the critical need isn’t ourselves. We accept truth as reality and apply it to the way we react and respond to every life happening. With new information, we can reevaluate how we spend our time, love our families, work successfully in our careers, push forward in our goals, and allow kaleidoscope living to shine with light and purpose.

An object viewed through a kaleidoscope never appears the same way twice. Don’t we want the same distinction? Don’t we want to examine the world new every morning?

While we want to ensure our faith, morals, and values remain intact, we also need to examine our core values. If they line up with truth, we are standing on a firm foundation. If they need adjustment, we find the strength to change.


What is one way we can show kaleidoscope living?


ABOUT DIANN


Are We Living a Kaleidoscope Life?
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne du Maurier, Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and Carol Award contests. Firewall, the first book in her FBI: Houston series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian fiction books of 2014. Her upcoming novel, Trace of Doubt, releases from Tyndale House Publishers in September 2021. Connect with DiAnn at diannmills.com.




ABOUT TRACE OF DOUBT


Are We Living a Kaleidoscope Life?
Bestselling and award-winning author DiAnn Mills delivers a heart-stopping story of dark secrets, desperate enemies, and dangerous lies.

Fifteen years ago, Shelby Pearce confessed to murdering her brother-in-law and was sent to prison. Now she’s out on parole and looking for a fresh start in the small town of Valleysburg, Texas. But starting over won’t be easy for an ex-con.

FBI Special Agent Denton McClure was a rookie fresh out of Quantico when he was first assigned the Pearce case. He’s always believed Shelby embezzled five hundred thousand dollars from her brother-in-law’s account. So he’s going undercover to befriend Shelby, track down the missing money, and finally crack this case.

But as Denton gets closer to Shelby, he begins to have a trace of doubt about her guilt. Someone has Shelby in their crosshairs. It’s up to Denton to stop them before they silence Shelby—and the truth—forever.

Audience interest points:
  • While working undercover to solve an embezzlement case, an FBI agent becomes convinced of the wrongful sentencing of Shelby Pearce, who served 15 years in prison after confessing to the murder of her brother-in-law.
  • Bestselling Christian author DiAnn Mills releases another action-packed, suspense-filled romance novel for fans of Dee Henderson, Lynette Eason, and Dani Pettrey.
  • The importance of treating all people with honor and respect, regardless of what their backgrounds may imply about who they are.
  • The value of seeking out truth and justice, lifting up the voices of those who have been silenced in the past.


GIVEAWAY


Tyndale Publishers is giving away a copy of Trace of Doublt to one reader today. Just leave a comment below for DiAnn and you're entered.

(Seekerville's Giveaway rules applied. Open to US residents with a US mailing address only.)

Special Guest Renee Ryan

 

Special Guest Renee Ryan
Thank you, Winnie, for inviting me to join you and your fellow authors at Seekerville. I always enjoy spending time with readers and the incredibly talented women who inspire me daily.

 I’m especially excited to talk about for upcoming release, a Love Inspired short contemporary romance coming out next month. I wrote The Sheriff’s Promise during the first six weeks of COVID quarantine. It was a wild ride. A story that began as a huge stressor due to its extremely tight deadline turned into a wonderful distraction during some very dark days. To be honest, there is no way I wrote this one on my own. God’s Hand was on this book from the first word I typed to the final sentence.

When I started writing the story, I tried to think of all the things I loved most. I adore animals. They have a way of softening hearts and teaching us unconditional love. I’ve learned a lot about God’s unmatchable grace from my pets. For that reason, and many others, I never grow tired of adding four-legged, furry characters to my books, often in the form of dogs and puppies.

Special Guest Renee Ryan

It wasn’t until a sassy alpaca sashayed onto the page (and past my hero’s office window) that I found myself writing entire scenes with an animal actually stealing the show. As creative as Prissy was at finding ways out of her pen, she was even better at wrestling the spotlight from the other characters. I truly fell in love with her. She is one of my favorite secondary characters. I mean, look at that sweet perma-grin.

I’m also a fan of home renovation shows. There’s something about watching an ordinary room transform into a spectacular space that makes me feel both happy and creatively inspired. How easy it would have been to give my heroine the same passion. But, wait. Just like her alpaca, Remy proved difficult. The veterinarian had little interest in remodeling her home, discussing backsplashes or looking at paint swatches. My hero’s nephew, Samson, came through for me. The little boy couldn’t stop redesigning his dream daycare. Well, when he wasn’t playing with puppies or riding his bike. Kid after my own heart.

 

Want to know more about The Sheriff’s Promise? Here’s the blurb: 

Special Guest Renee Ryan

He’s looking for help. And she has the perfect arrangement… 



Overworked and overwhelmed, all Sheriff Wyatt Holcomb wants is to be the best guardian to his seven-year-old nephew—and dealing with a runaway alpaca and the animal’s frustrating owner isn’t helping. 

Then veterinarian Remy Evans offers a solution for them both. She’ll watch his rambunctious nephew, Samson, this summer if he’ll fast-track her permit application for a petting zoo. But this temporary solution might just be their chance at forever…

 



I also love giving away free books. Let’s talk favorite things. I love puppies, alpacas and renovation shows. What’s guaranteed to make you smile? Leave a comment with your answer and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a print copy of The Sheriff’s Promise. 

While you’re online, feel free to stop by my website www.reneeryan.com. You can also contact me by email at reneeryanbooks@gmail.com or visit me on my Renee Ryan Facebook page.

Special Guest Renee Ryan

Two-time winner of the published Daphne Award for her WWII romantic thrillers, Renee Ryan grew up in a Florida beach town. She received an undergraduate degree in Economics and continued her education on the graduate level at Florida State University, focusing on Religious Studies. She went on to teach high school AP Economics, Political Science, and Latin. 

Renee left teaching to pursue her dream of writing romance fiction. She sold her first book to Dorchester Publishing by winning the inaugural New Historical Voice Contest. She’s since written for several publishers in several sub-genres, including historical fiction, historical romance, contemporary romance, and romantic suspense. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and a fat cat many have mistaken for a small bear.



Story Tracking With A Calendar

 

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here again. Today I'm in revising and polishing mode and was checking and updating the story calendar and thought that might be a good topic for my current post.

Story Tracking With A Calendar


One of the first things I do when I start a new story is to set up a calendar to help me track story events. First, whether it's an historical or a contemporary, I pull up an actual calendar for the year in question. For purposes of this post, I'm going to use one of my older works, The Christmas Journey, which was set in 1892.

Story Tracking With A Calendar
From  www.timeanddate.com

As you can see, this gives me a lot of very useful information. It tells me when holidays occurred, when there was a full moon or dark of the moon if that becomes important to my story.

Once I have this information I start populating my story calendar. I add in any fixed events that happen over the course of my story- things like holidays, town events (festivals, civic/club meetings, classes, etc.) A new wrinkle for my Amish stories is they have church service every other Sunday so I note which Sundays are church Sundays and which are "Between Sundays".

If I know the start and end dates for my story I'll mark them. For instance I knew I wanted this story to end on Christmas Day so I plugged that in. I didn't know an actual start date but I estimated based on how many weeks I expected the story to take place over. FYI, my notation legend - Events that are fixed I list in blue text, events I've estimated the date for or am placing on the calendar before I actually write the scene are noted in red text. 

So I started out with the calendar below:

Story Tracking With A Calendar

As I write the story I begin filling in the story events. If I transition over any of the days, I shade the applicable cells in gray. But if something happened during the transition period that I refer back to, I also make note of it. That way I can see what happens on page and off.

Story Tracking With A Calendar



Here is a look at my final calendar for The Christmas Journey with some of the notations deleted to remove most of the key spoilers :)

Story Tracking With A Calendar


Using this method allows me to keep up with my story. It keeps me from having a week that lasts nine days or having two Tuesdays in a row or various other timeline issues that I've actually had in the past. I've also started turning it in with my manuscript and my editor has said it's a big help when she's looking at continuity issues during her editing process.

One other thing I've found that this helps - when I'm writing a series of books set in the same town/world, it helps me keep things straight from book to book.  The way this works is that any repetitive events I've noted on the calendar from Book 1 gets copied over to my calendar for Book 2. That insures I don't have timeline issues between the two.  For instance, if I set up a town council meeting that happens on the second Tuesday of the month in Book 1, I immediately copy that onto my calendar when I start Book 2 as a fixed event. Or if one of my key characters in Book 1 is pregnant when it closes, I track her pregnancy/delivery in the calendar for Book 2.

There you have it, my story tracking method. Let's discuss - does this speak to you? Or do you have a different method that you've developed that works for you?

And since I still have a number of copies of The Christmas Journey, leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a copy.

Story Tracking With A Calendar

Story Tracking With A Calendar

Philadelphia lawyer Ryland Lassiter is everything Josephine Wylie wants - for a brother-in-law!  As the sole supporter of her family, Josie's plans for herself have always had to wait.  But Ryland will be ideal as the new head of the Wylie clan...once he finally realizes how perfect he is for her sister.

Ry knows its time to settle down.  The newly appointed guardian to a friend's daughter, he's ready for a home and family.  All he needs is a bride...and Josie's sister is not the Wylie who has caught his eye.  If only Josie would see the truth - that the only Christmas present he needs is her love.








Writing Subplots

.

Writing Subplots

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Today I wanted to talk a little bit about subplots.

First, let’s define what a subplot is.

According to the Cambridge dictionary a subplot is “a part of the story of a book or play that develops separately from the main story” Some call it the B Story, the minor story or the secondary story line. But whatever you call them, they are minor story and/or character arcs that support and enhance your main story line by adding texture, context, complexity and richness to it.

 

So why use subplots?

Subplots, when done effectively, add additional depth, texture, richness and dimension to your story. They do this by adding conflict, romance, tragedy, mystery, tension, additional worldbuilding and other elements. In some cases they can add critical information your protagonists in the main story thread may be unaware of.

Some of the ways subplots do this:

  • They add another layer of verisimilitude to your story. After all, people don’t live in a vacuum, they have more than one thing going on in their lives and more than one person/team of people tugging at their attention.  Sub plots can help show that interaction for your protagonists.
  • They help add page count without your story feeling padded or episodic.
  • They can help illustrate or up the stakes.
  • They can improve characterization by allowing the reader to see your protagonist through another set of eyes
  • If you’re writing a series, they can help bring in beloved characters from previous books, or introduce characters that will appear in future books.
  • For mysteries or stories from other genres with a touch of mystery, they can introduce red herrings or obfuscate clues.
  • They can help fine tune the pace of your story, inserting lighter moments into a tense main plot or vice versa, providing your reader with a breather between high octane scenes or add a reminder of the stakes in quieter moments
  • They can serve to temporarily detour, delay or change your protagonists' goals

There are others but we’ll leave it there for now.  By the way, if you can make one subplot perform two or more of these functions it will make your subplot's reason for existence even stronger.

 

Writing Subplots

Does every story need a subplot?

Of course short stories don’t. As for longer works, while there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to writing, the truth is that even stories that manage to stand alone with one main plotline can benefit from having a subplot or two, for all the reasons listed above.

 

So let’s dig into the various Types of Subplots

  • Romantic Subplots
    If you’re writing a romance, you can add a secondary romance between Secondary characters. This is often seen in Hallmark movies, the heroine’s best friend finds love while the main characters are still dancing around the issue.
    If you’re writing any other genre, adding a love interest for your protagonist as a subplot can add interest and complications to your main plot

  • Mirror Subplots
    These are subplots that are similar to or ‘mirror’ some aspect of the protagonists story arc. This is one way to show the stakes. For instance perhaps you have a protagonist who is standing up to a corrupt land developer as is his neighbor. If his neighbor has his home burned to the ground, that graphically illustrates the kind of stakes the protagonist is facing

  • Contrast Subplots
    The opposite of Mirror Subplots, these show what happens when a secondary character makes different choices than your main character. For instance, your protagonist might have chosen to go into the family business after high school, while his brother chose to head to college across the country. Your subplot could illustrate the consequences, positive and/or negative, of those choices.

  • Complicative Subplots
    Subplots that get in the way of your protagonists achieving their goals are a great way to keep the tension and conflict high and the reader turning the pages.

  • Comedic Subplot
    This is a subplot that is intended to lighten the mood and give the reader a chance to smile or take a breath from whatever is happening in the main storyline. Take care when crafting this type of subplot – the timing, genre and overall tone of the story needs to be carefully considered when deciding if your comedic element is appropriate.

  • Character Revelation
    These subplots reveal additional attributes of your story’s protagonists. They can show
    • Character Flaws
    • Character Strengths
    • Character Backstory

 

Writing Subplots

How to craft your subplot

The number one thing to remember is that the subplot is just that – subordinate to the main plot. Its sole purpose is to enhance some aspect of the main plot. There should never be any confusion as to which is the main plot and you will want to wrap up all of your subplot threads before the main plot. The only exception to this is the subplot that is going to arc over several books in a series.

Craft your subplot as a mini-story in its own right with an arc of its own – it should have a beginning, middle and end of its own.

Make certain you know how your subplot ties into your  main plot. It can run parallel to it, weave in and out of it or be plopped in in one chunk. Any of these methods can work as long as it does its job of enhancing the main story line.

The timing of introducing and ending your subplots are important to the pacing of your story. You want to maintain the momentum and page turning aspect as much as possible. When the main plot line slows or lags, introducing or returning to a subplot can propel your reader forward.

Make sure you understand the purpose of your subplot. How will it relate to and enhance your main plot. What questions will it raise and/or answer for your protagonists and their goals.

Also make certain the subplot is necessary. Does the function it performs require a subplot or could it b handled more effectively in a different way?

 

As for the mechanics, as I was researching tis topic, I discover that some writers plot (at a high level) the main plot and each subplot separately, treating each subplot as a separate, simpler story. Once that’s done then they take each subplot, break it into scenes and then see where those scenes fit within the main story. I’ve never actually approached plotting this way, but I find the idea intriguing and may just try it next time I begin plotting a story.

 

Final Thoughts

There’s a whole lot more than can be said about subplots but I’ll leave it there.

I’ve heard subplots described as connective tissue for your story and  I like that description. If you look up the medical aspects of connective tissue  you’ll find this: The five major functions of connective tissue include: 

  • binding and supporting other tissue in the body, 
  • protecting, 
  • insulating, 
  • storing reserve fuel, and 
  • transporting substances within the body. 

If you replace the word body with the word story you’ll see that subplots can do all of those things.

So when planning your next story, give some careful consideration to what subplots can do if you deliberately and effectively weave them into the fabric of your story (and yes, I know I missed my metaphors)

 

Writing Subplots

So let's hear from you. Do you like having subplots in a story?. Can you think of other functions subplots perform or other tips and tricks for crafting them? Do you have a favorite kind of subplot?

Comment to get your name in the hat for your selection of any book in my backlist.


Where to begin? Let's start with Seekerville Story Marathon

Hello Seekerville! Annie here. Today I want to play a little game, but before we get to that, I want to ask you a question. How do you begin writing? 

About a few months ago, I had someone tell me they would like to write a book. I encouraged them to, but they are befuddled on how and where to begin. It's not as easy as it sounds, is it? I then went and basically asked everyone - in person, on the phone, and on social media, "how do you begin?" It's not only how does one begin, but it's also the question of where and what.  Here are some of their responses:

"I don't know. I just write everything down." 

"I started journaling, writing my day."  - Klarissa M.

"I read." - (multiple)

"Words don't always come. So I start with a people chart." - Cecily

"Brain dump 10 minutes a day. I write whatever comes to mind." - M.A.

"Random jotting of words and thoughts." - Joanne K.

"Think about something you care about and write your thoughts about it." - @pens_andwrittenwords

Real - life stories of beginnings:


Where to begin?  Let's start with Seekerville Story Marathon
"I wrote as a child and then as a high schooler did a novella for a project where I had to learn about publishing. Then I did MANY NaNoWriMos and started going to writing conferences and really studied what publishing was about." - @createexploreread


"I have written as a hobby since junior high. I didn’t show my stories to anyone except family and close friends and didn’t plan to ever pursue writing as a career. When I was in my mid-later 20’s I began working on a book I felt more passionate about than the rest, and after a lot of soul searching, plus moving overseas and quitting my full time teaching job to stay home with my son, I started thinking that maybe I wanted to switch careers a write professionally, for publication. So I worked, worked harder, learned craft, cried, and pitched my novel and got rejected a whole lot, learned more craft, and cried some more until finally somebody say the magic word: yes! And now, my debut novel is under contract!" - Haylie Hanson, (debut coming soon!)


"I'm a strange case...I started my publication journey after working in publishing, in the marketing department of Bethany House. I've been writing for as long as I can remember, though, and reading everything I could get my sticky little hands on at our small elementary school library. Every now and then I'd look at the shelf where "Green" was and imagine having books there someday. So I guess you could say that I started with an overactive imagination and just enough perseverance to occasionally finish one of the many fiction projects I started." - Amy Lynn Green, debut author


"My writing journey began when I told a friend I had an idea for a book and she told me I should write it. No one had ever suggested I actually write something when I shared an idea. I never even thought myself to actually write something. It was as if the idea never occurred to me. After that, I started writing an outline and fell in love with storytelling immediately. I'm not published yet, but since that moment of talking to my friend, I've written two novels, a couple short stories, a novella and I'm working on my third novel." - @lunasluckymoon


"I started with a writers course through the Christian Writer’s Guild that introduced me to mentors that taught me the process as I wrote my first manuscript. Then I started attending writers conferences, which is where I pitched my story and met with agents and editors. This led me to signing with my agent and with my publisher for my books. ☺️" - Natalie Walters, published author


Let's start together! Presenting "Seekerville Story Marathon":


I know it's not easy. I, like many will have no idea where to begin, but I do know that sometimes, the best ideas come out at the least expected of times. So why not start together? When I was young, my sisters and I (sometimes add in some cousins) would play this game called "Word Marathon." Eventually it led to "Story Marathon" which is basically a game to test our improvisational skills. The objective is to "create" a story at the spur of the moment.

This was how we played:
  1. One person started with a word or a sentence.
  2. Another person followed on with a word or a sentence that continued from the first person.
  3. And so on and so forth. Easy, right?
  4. The last person left standing to continue the story successfully won.
The tricky part of this games is that no one knows where the story is going, since the next person may completely change the direction of the story. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's suspenseful and some times, it makes no sense at all.


So, for this Seekerville Story Marathon, we will do steps 1 through 3 as follows:
  1. I will start the story first with one sentence. 
  2. The next person, please leave in the comments, the next sentence or sentences of this impromptu story.  (Write as much as you'd like.)
  3. Everyone will continue on from the previous commenter's "sentence(s)". 
To make it easier for us to know it is part of the story, please put your sentence(s) in "quotes".  
Feel free to come back and continue on even if you've commented before, but it must continue from the last commenter's input. 


One random commenter who participated in the Seekerville Story Marathon, will be selected to win  "A Writer's Starter Pack" curated by me. Sorry, US participants Only.  Giveaway ends 2 PM EST, December 18, 2020 and winner will be announced on the Weekend Edition on December 19, 2020. I will also post the completed story from this Story Marathon sometime that week. Prize subject to  Seekerville terms and conditions set forth for giveaways. 


START: 
"Dashing through the snow, little Ruthy couldn't wait to get home to show her mom what she had found." 


Now it's your turn. GO!

Using Imagery In Your Writing

 

Using Imagery In Your Writing


Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.


Today I want to talk a little bit about the use of Imagery in your writing.  First, a quick unofficial definition:  Imagery is the use of descriptive or figurative language to evoke a mental picture of the scene, action or emotion being depicted.

 

It’s much more than simple description, it is a tool that helps the writer paint vivid pictures that fire the reader’s imagination, that gives them new ways to look at whatever it is that’s being described.  Painting those fresh word pictures is key to creating fiction that resonates.  In other words imagery helps the writer say things in a way that touches the reader more effectively than a literal description would.  Because, by the act of their need to read between the lines and make the necessary translations and connections, however slight, readers become more involved and more engaged in the story.

 

Let’s talk about some of those methods.

 

Metaphors and Similes

These are probably the most common types of figurative language we use.  While similar, metaphors and similes are not the same thing.  A simile takes two distinctly different items and compares them using words such as ‘like’ and ‘as’.  A metaphor also compares two essentially different things but in a more subtle way.  It doesn’t announce the comparison by using comparative language but rather uses the items being compared  interchangeably, implying that they actually arethe same. 

 

Let’s use an example to illustrate: 

 

The dandelion fluff scattered in the wind like a troupe of graceful dancers  (simile)

 

The gust of wind awakened the drowsing bits of dandelion fluff, scattering them from their hammocks to gracefully dance across the meadow.  (Metaphor)

 

In these examples, dandelion fluff is being compared to dancers.  The difference is, in the first example you are being explicitly told that this is a comparison and in the second you are implying it by giving the dandelion fluff the characteristics of a dancer.  There is a place for both constructs in your writing.

 

Using Imagery In Your Writing

Analogy

An analogy is very similar to a metaphor or simile, in that it makes comparisons.  In fact, analogies normally employ similes and metaphors.  The main difference is that an analogy is used to do more than describe, it is used to explain or convince the reader/listener of an idea or concept. 

Robert Lee Brewer in Writer’s Digest explains the differences using these examples:

Metaphor: Time is a thief.

Simile: Time is like a thief.

Analogy: Time is like a thief in that thieves steal physical objects and time steals moments of our lives.

Another example of an analogy, this one from Mark Twain:  

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightening and a lightening bug.

 

Zeugma

A zeugma is another comparative technique, and is one of my favorites.  It’s much rarer than the others we’ve discussed but when done well it can be quite effective.  A zeugma is a word that is used to modify or govern two individual words or phrases, but each in a different way.

 It sounds complicated but here is a fairly simple example:  

Working beside my grandmother in her garden that summer wore holes in the knees of my jeans, and in my heart.

 In the matter of the jeans we are, of course, referring to actual holes.  In the case of the heart, however, we are using the word more figuratively.

 

Symbols

Symbolism is another great way to add the power of imagery to your work.  Symbolism is the use of some object or action to represent an idea, emotion or any other abstract quality.  It’s a type of shorthand.  If you show a motorist an octagonal red sign, even if there are no words on it, he understands he’s supposed to stop.  If a parking space has a stylized image of a person seated in a wheelchair, drivers know that spot is reserved for handicap access vehicles.  These are symbols.        

 

In literature, you’ll find two categories of symbols - author created symbols and universally understood symbols.

 

Universally understood symbols are those that convey meaning either by their very nature or by their context.     One of my favorite examples of this is from the movie Notting Hill.  There’s a scene in the movie where the Hugh Grant character is trying to get over the blow up of his relationship with the Julia Roberts character, and we see him walking through the market in a scene that takes up only about 2-3 minutes of actual screen time.  But during this walk, without the use of any dialogue, we see background characters and weather elements flow seamlessly through changes in such a way that by the end of his stroll we know an entire year has passed in his world.  And this was done entirely with a shorthand that we as viewers instinctively understood.

 

There are lots of these kinds of symbols out there - road signs, storms, falling leaves, howling wind, flowers in bloom, shooting stars, new dawns and sunsets, and oh so many more - they are all around us, all have meaning to our readers and all can be used in a number of ways to signify different things.  For instance, depending on your story’s theme and context, a reference to falling leaves can conjure images of the inevitability of death, or it can signal that holiday time is drawing near, or for the less astute reader, it can mean nothing more than that it is autumn.  And it can do this without any overt reference to any of those things.

 

Then there are the symbols that are author created.  Something you give significance and meaning to in a way that it then becomes shorthand for that meaning throughout your story. 

For instance, in page one of my book A Matter of Trust you’ll find this passage:

Her sweet, curious, intelligent little boy - he was so precious to her.  Now that her own mother was gone, he was all she had that truly mattered.

Lucy’s smile faltered at that reminder of her loss, and she pressed a hand lightly against her bodice, comforted by the feel of her mother’s locket, cool against her skin. 

 From that point on in the story, whenever Lucy touches that locket, which she does on several occasions, the reader should have a sense of what she’s feeling without me having to elaborate.

You should be subtle about your use of symbols, even the more obvious ones.  And never, ever explain a symbol to your readers.  If you’ve done your job properly, then the perceptive reader will ‘get it’ either on a conscious or subconscious level.  If less perceptive readers only see it for its face value, then so be it. 

 

Using Imagery In Your Writing

Some DOs and DON’Ts on imagery

 

Strive for originality

When crafting your images - avoid clichés like the plague!  There are exceptions of course, but for the most part you want to give your reader fresh imagery to fire their imagination.  Find new ways to say ‘cold as ice’  or ‘fresh as a daisy’.

Here are some snippets pulled from my book The Christmas Journey:

As frustrated as a frisky dog on a short leash.

Relief washed through her in giddy waves.

She was still madder than a dunked cat

 

Use the mood and setting of your book to create the palette you draw your images from

Is your book a gothic set in the Victorian period?  Much of your imagery should have a dark, heavy, ominous feel - storms, nighttime, forests, rock, thorns, scavenger animals

On the other hand, if your story is a light-hearted romp set in small town America, your imagery might be drawn from things like sunshine, spring, flowers, songbirds, domesticated animals

 

Here are some snippets pulled from my book, The Christmas Journey, which is a western

Otis glanced her way and the ugly smile he flashed sent alarm skittering up her spine like a frightened centipede.

Otis and Clete lounged outside the saloon, all but licking their chops, nudging each other like a pair of weasels who’d spied a way into the chicken coop.

Mr. Lassiter’s well-being was more important than getting vengeance on that bucket of pond scum.

 

Keep your imagery focused.

Don’t make it a multiple choice issue for your reader. 

For example:  He was as forceful as a locomotive barreling down the tracks, or as a tornado swirling across the plains.    Not good - pick one!

 Also, make sure you use an image we can grasp.

The sentence - He was as effective as Daedalus in teaching caution to his son  won’t evoke an image for the reader if they don’t know who Daedalus was.

 

Surprise Your Reader With The Unexpected

When you are trying to describe a woman’s lips, a skilled writer will naturally reach for something other than red as rubies or cherries.  But suppose you take it in an entirely different direction - say red and puffy as an inflamed blister or that they matched her bloodshot eyes?  It might make your reader squirm a bit, but it’ll definitely paint a memorable picture, and depending on what you’re going for, it could work.

 

Some Final Thoughts

You obviously don’t want or need to overload your story with imagery and symbolism.  As with any technique, overuse can result in reader dissatisfaction or a dilution of impact.  So sometimes you simply want to describe a scene or emotion literally.  The key is to know when and how to use these tools to create the most enjoyable experience for your reader.

Figurative language is a powerful tool for your literary arsenal and one you shouldn’t be afraid to play with.  When properly wielded it can transform and elevate your writing.

Using Imagery In Your Writing


Do you have some favorite examples of imagery from books or movies that you’d like to share?  Is so, please post them for us. 

 

Leave a comment to get your name in the hat for your choice of any book in my backlist.

 

Writing the Book Blurb - Part 2My Obsession with ResearchUtilizing Amazon’s Buying and Gifting eBooks for Others FeatureSpecial Guest Renee RyanStory Tracking With A CalendarWriting SubplotsWhere to begin?  Let's start with Seekerville Story MarathonUsing Imagery In Your Writing

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