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Listening for the Quiet Voice Instead of the Loud Noise

 by Chris Fabry


His voice was caustic, overmodulated, and scratchy-sounding through his phone. He had called the program I was hosting to criticize me and my work. At the end of the call, before he abruptly hung up, he said these words:

“You’re plastic, Fabry.”

That phone call came more than thirty years ago. Why do I still remember it? Why do I so easily hang on to the criticism and let go of the encouragement?

It also happened with my writing a few years ago. A reviewer online had said something cutting and biting about one of my novels. He referred to what brings me joy as “silly little stories.” 

If you write, you have to grow a thick skin. Same with doing any kind of public speaking or revealing your thoughts and personality through radio. Not everyone is going to get what you’re saying. 

The truth I keep coming back to is that if God has placed a creative desire inside you—and since he’s wildly creative, why wouldn’t he?—then allow the process to do its work in you as well as on the page. I do not control the outcome of my stories. I don’t dictate how they will be received. I don’t know if what I’m doing will be a bestseller or a bomb. But I do know that my job is to be faithful to tell the story with everything in me and allow that process to change me.

Listening for the Quiet Voice Instead of the Loud Noise
As I was writing the novelization of Lifemark, a story crafted and filmed by the Kendrick Brothers, I had two competing voices inside. One was loud and brash and angry, like a heavy metal rendition of “My Way.” That voice said something like this: Readers are going to see through your agenda. You just want people to believe the way you do and to control women’s bodies. The accusation and vitriol continued as I fleshed out the story of Melissa, a teenager with an unwanted pregnancy.

The other voice was a lot quieter. It was almost a whisper that said, Speak up for those who have no voice. At one point near the end of the writing process, I sat back and stared at the screen. I imagined an anonymous email appearing that said, “I read Lifemark and the story saved my baby’s life.” And then I fast-forwarded a few years—maybe twenty—and imagined a college student coming up to me. “My mom and dad saw that movie. They decided to give me a chance at life.”

I don’t have those kinds of hopes and dreams for every story. But I really had the feeling that this one could literally be used to save someone’s life.

So how do you quell the noise and listen for the quiet voice? It’s not easy. I still hear the grating sound of the man from thirty years ago calling me plastic. I still see the words silly little stories in my head—partly because of the alliteration, to be honest. 

One way to stop the noise is to surround yourself with people who believe in you. A few birthdays back, after I wrote about the bad review, one of my brothers sent a card and inside it said, “Keep telling your silly little stories.” So find people who will value what you’ve been called to do.

I also find it helpful to think of the process rather than the outcome of my endeavors. For me, writing is internal work that has great value. I don’t base my worth on a review or awards or bestseller status. I hope many people read my stories and I hope my time investment helps provide for my family. But ultimately I have to come to my desk each day and work with all my heart for an audience of One.

I’ve also discovered that I allow more noise in my life through social media, news sites, and the daily barrage of people saying, “Be angry about this!” As a human, I am not meant to know every opinion or every event in the world. Because of our information age, we are trying to drink from a fire hydrant. Our souls are poorer for it.

What about you? What is the noise you hear today that discourages your soul? The first step is to recognize that noise for what it is. Then, when things get quiet, you can listen closely for the gentle whisper that is urging you to trust, believe, and take a step forward. 

The whisper that means the most is found in Ephesians chapters 1 and 2. Those passages tell us who we really are in Christ and that because of what he did for us, we are accepted and adopted and lavishly loved by the One who gave everything to draw us to himself.

Don’t give up.

Keep telling your stories.

The criticism is meant to stop you because you’re doing something that counts.

Don’t give up.

I’d love to hear of a moment when you listened to the whisper rather than the noise.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Listening for the Quiet Voice Instead of the Loud Noise

Chris Fabry is an award-winning author and radio personality who hosts the daily program Chris Fabry Live on Moody Radio. He has written more than 80 books for children and adults.






ABOUT LIFEMARK


Listening for the Quiet Voice Instead of the Loud Noise
For eighteen years, she tried to believe she had made the right decision—for him.

But if she never saw him again, how could she ever be sure?

Melissa had clung to the thin thread of hope given by the adoption agency that someday her newborn son might want to connect with her. When his eighteenth birthday arrived, she called the agency to simply update her contact information, not expecting a response.

Susan and Jimmy Colton had raised their boy with openness about his adoption. After the heartbreaking loss of two infant sons that marked their early years of marriage, they promised themselves they would try not to hold too tightly to David or hold back any information he wanted about his birth. And so they waited on him.

David was hesitant to talk about the questions and curiosities about his birth story that often haunted him. But as he neared adulthood, his need to know the full story of his life became something he couldn’t shake. Until the call came to the Coltons from the adoption agency, and the first tentative bits of communication and connection set in motion a story that would change all their lives forever.

From the team that brought you the movies Courageous and War Room comes Lifemark, the novelization of the new film inspired by a true story of adoption, redemption, and hope.


Giveaway


Leave a comment for Chris, and be enter for a chance to win a copy of his latest release, Lifemark.


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

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.

Giving Distinctive Voices to the People in your Head with guest Sandra Orchard

 

Giving Distinctive Voices to the People in your Head with guest Sandra Orchard
 

Hi everyone, Sandra Orchard here. After a long hiatus from blogging, I’m delighted to be back celebrating the release of my 25th novel with a post about voice.

Boughs of Folly is my tenth cozy mystery written as part of multi-author sets. In such cases, maintaining authentic voices for characters, that are simultaneously being written about by other authors, carries unique challenges.

When my first novel released, a family member said she felt distracted while first reading it, because she heard my voice in her head. Thankfully, after a few scenes, my characters took on lives of their own for her, and she forgot about me. But her comment made me ever cognizant of the importance of ensuring the “voices” of my stories are true to the story being told.

So, how do we do that?

First let me clarify what I mean by “voice.” Voice can refer to:

1) An author’s unique style of storytelling that characterizes much of his or her work.
2) A particular story’s narrative voice—i.e. the voice in which the story is told. Or…
3) The characters’ actual voices spoken in dialogue.

The best advice I’ve heard with regards to developing #1 is to not try. Some say your distinctive voice will emerge the more you write. But be cautious about imitating others who you presume know more than you. I’ve observed, especially with newbies, that in our efforts to incorporate all the seemingly wonderful advice we receive from critiquers, we can quickly dilute or lose the fresh voice of our original piece. I suspect this is because when you’re passionate about a story and write with abandon, oblivious to ‘the rules’, your unique voice is given full rein. Editing, on the other hand, uses the left side of your brain and can alter it drastically.

Giving Distinctive Voices to the People in your Head with guest Sandra Orchard
So, instead of searching for your voice (as per #1), I recommend mastering the art of point of view, to help you develop strong narrator and character voices.

Honing this skill has proven invaluable to me in writing multi-author continuities featuring the same main character, including for Boughs of Folly. Now in theory, the first lucky author of a continuity gets to set the tone the rest of us must mirror for each continuing character. And Boughs of Folly is book one in the Jingle Bells Mysteries set. However, the three-book bundle, features long-established characters from the realm of the Chocolate Shoppe Mysteries.

So, I acquainted myself with all the wonderful quirky characters by immersing myself in the original series. The stories are set in Georgia, but the series editor advised me that authors were urged to use a light touch when it came to “Southernisms.” My goal while reading was to know the characters so well, that I’d hear their voices in my head. To that end, I focused on the distinctive nuances of each continuing characters’ voice. These are the same sorts of nuances you can use to create characters that stand apart from each other.

Tip: Sitting in a crowded place, such as an airport or shopping mall, and listening to the conversations going on around you is a great way to discover fresh voices for your characters.

Ready to assess the voices in your stories?

Let’s evaluate your characters’ dialogue first:

Does it vary in sentence structure? Some people talk in long run-on sentences. Some talk in short, disjointed blips. How about vocabulary? Does one character use few words, while another exhibits verbal diarrhea? Do some characters use big words or technical jargon, while others use slang? Does your English professor use perfect diction? Or do you characterize your jock by having him be well read and speak with perfect diction? How about each character’s grammar? Does it vary?

Do characters share the same pet words? They shouldn’t. But this might be the chance for you to use all those adjectives and adverbs, you’ve been trained to replace with strong nouns and verbs. Because in dialogue, your flowery character can be as flowery in her language as you want. Just ensure she’s the only one who speaks that way. Unless of course your sarcastic character chooses to imitate her.

If you choose to give a character a unique dialect, avoid tricky spellings. Instead, show the dialect through word choice, word order and sentence construction etc.

Finally, notice what isn’t in the dialogue. What’s not being said, or the subtext of what’s said or done, often characterizes the reader far more than his or her actual dialogue. In other words, what counts isn’t what your character says, but the effect of what he meant.

If you’re writing a continuity, your editor’s input is invaluable in keeping characters’ voices consistent from one author to the next, and the continuity guidelines will likely determine who the narrator’s voice or voices will be.

Quick tips for Choosing your Narrator

Whether writing in first or third person, the character you choose to narrate the story (or scene) has a huge impact on your story’s tone. In my romantic suspense, where my hero and heroine take turns narrating scenes, I choose the character with the most to lose.

In addition to all the elements of voice discussed above, other elements also come into play in your narrator’s voice. For example, can the reader trust the narrator? Do his thoughts correspond with his speech and actions? Does she have a secret? Is he hiding a sin or regret or deep-seated fear? The more you flesh out your characters with flaws, fears, secrets etc., the more you can layer their emotions into the narrative, so the reader experiences them, too.

Most importantly, have fun getting into character!

Speaking of having fun…

Giveaway:

I’m giving away 25 books as part of my 25th book celebration. Leave a comment or question about “voice” to throw your name into the hat for tomorrow’s draw for a copy of one of my earlier titles.

And…enter the rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win one of 10 copies of Boughs of Folly.

And…stop by my blog to see the free E books and special price promos my publishers are offering as part of my celebration. (current limited time offers—Deadly Devotion is free & Identity Withheld, a Love Inspired Suspense, is $1.99 )

~*~*~*~*~

Giving Distinctive Voices to the People in your Head with guest Sandra Orchard
Sandra Orchard writes fast-paced, keep-you-guessing stories with a generous dash of sweet romance. Touted by Midwest Book Reviews as “a true master of the [mystery] genre,” Sandra celebrates the publication of her 25th novel in 2022. She writes for Love Inspired Suspense, Revell and Annie’s Fiction. And her novels have garnered numerous awards. From Niagara Canada, when not dreaming up fictional characters, Sandra spends most of her time playing with the characters in her real life—aka her little grandchildren.

Connect with Sandra at: website | Facebook | Amazon

About Boughs of Folly:

Jillian Green’s holiday cheer nosedives when her great aunt’s friend, Herbert, is killed while helping them decorate for a fundraiser. But the case is more tangled than a strand of twinkle lights, and if Jillian can’t uncover the killer, Herbert’s night might not be the only one silenced this Christmas.

Boughs of Folly is part of a three-book Jingle Bells Mysteries bundle, releasing June 25, 2022, and sold exclusively by Annie’s Fiction

Giving Distinctive Voices to the People in your Head with guest Sandra Orchard
 

Don't forget to enter to win a copy of one of Sandra's earlier titles by leaving a comment or question about 'voice' below!

It’s Almost Here! New Release and a Giveaway

 

It’s Almost Here!  New Release and a Giveaway

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I’m so excited - the release day for Her Amish Springtime Miracle, the second book in my Hope’s Haven series, releases on Tuesday May 24th.

Her Amish Springtime Miracle features Hannah, the youngest of the three Eicher sisters, as the heroine. When I developed her character I looked to her biblical namesake. Hannah Eicher is a young Amish woman who has learns from her doctor that she will likely never be able to bear children. When an infant girl is abandoned in her family’s barn with a note pleading with Hannah to raise her, Hannah knows it’s an answered prayer. Now, a year later, Hannah is on the cusp of finalizing her adoption of baby Grace.

The hero, Mike is an paramedic with unwanted ties to the Amish. His parents were Amish but when he was a young child his mother died and his father left with bitter feelings toward  the community and embraced a more worldly lifestyle. This meant Mike was raised in the English world from age seven so for all intents and purposes he is an Englischer. But now he has to go back to his childhood community to find a lost-to-him nephew, the last member of his English family.

Both Hannah and Mike are seeking to build family ties in an unconventional manner but this commonality is only one of the things that draw them together. Their differences, though, are more profound. Because neither is ready to set aside the lifestyle and beliefs of the world they inhabit.

When I first conceived this story I never imagined the difficulty I would have in writing the final third of the book (It would have helped if I was more of a plotter and less of a pantser ). Trying to give Hannah and Mike their HEA when they had so much to overcome was definitely not easy. I did eventually manage to resolve this in an organic and believable manner (I hope!)

Here’s an excerpt (slightly modified for space and to remove spoilers). For context, Hannah is a baker and Mike, who's trying to get back in her good graces after they find themselves at odds over somehing, has offered to help her with one of her orders

 

Mike turned to Hannah. “What can I do?”

She waved dismissively. “There’s no need for you—”

He raised a brow. “Don’t you think I can be of any use?”

Hannah didn’t answer for a moment, and he wondered if this would be one of her stubborn moments. Then she nodded. “All right.” She retrieved a roll of parchment paper and stack of sheet pans. She set the pans down and handed him the roll of parchment paper. “You can line each of these pans, edge-to-edge, while I prepare the work surface.”

“Starting me off with the hard jobs I see.”

That earned him a grin.

While he worked on lining the cookie sheets, she cleaned and dried the table. Then she grabbed a canister of flour and dusted her work area.

A few minutes later he’d finished his task. “All done. What’s next?”

Hannah tilted her head and met his gaze. “You’re sure you want to keep going?”

“I am.”

She gave him a mock-warning look. “Don’t say I didn’t give you an out.”

Good, she was relaxing.

“If you’ll get two discs of cookie dough from the refrigerator, I’ll get the rolling pins.”

Once that was done, Hannah went into instructor mode. “We need to roll out this dough to a uniform thickness of about a quarter inch.” She demonstrated. “If the dough begins to stick, you can sprinkle on more flour.”

He enjoyed watching her when she was in her element, confident and relaxed. Standing side by side as they worked was nice too. Was she even aware that she hummed softly when she worked?

“How’s this?” he asked when he had it rolled out.

Her mouth scrunched to one side as she focused on his dough. “The center seems a little thicker than the edge. Otherwise I think it’s ready.”

Mike studied his dough critically, then rolled gently from the center out.

This time Hannah nodded and gave him an approving smile. “You’re doing so much better than I did on my first attempt.”

“Why, thank you. I have a good teacher.”

“Of course, I was six my first time.”

That surprised a chuckle out of him, and he saw an answering grin on her face. Promising. “So what’s next?”

She checked her ever-present notebook. “These are for a graduation party and I’ll use three different shapes” She retrieved the appropriate cookie cutters and handed him one. “You can work on the rectangles.”

Did she know she had a smudge of flour on her cheek? Even though he thought she looked absolutely adorable, he couldn’t resist reaching up to brush it away.

As soon as his hand touched her face, sensations jolted through him with the force of a flashover—sudden, overwhelming, undeniable.

She felt it too. He could see it in the way her eyes widened and darkened, in the sound of her breath catching in her throat. For that moment in time everything shifted.

They weren’t rivals any longer.

They weren’t Amish and English.

They weren’t Ohioan and Missourian.

They were just a man and a woman.


I hope you enjoyed this sneak peak into my plotting process (or lack thereof) and my story. Leave a comment with your thoughts to be entered in a drawing for a copy of Her Amish Springtime Miracle.

It’s Almost Here!  New Release and a Giveaway


HER AMISH SPRINGTIME MIRACLE

It’s Almost Here!  New Release and a Giveaway

An orphaned baby brings together an unlikely couple who learn the true meaning of family

When Hannah Eicher discovered sweet baby Grace in her barn last spring, the adorable infant seemed like the answer to her prayers. The young Amish baker has always wanted a familye of her own and now that she’s fostered Grace for nearly a year, her adoption application is almost certain to be approved. But an unexpected visitor to Hope’s Haven could change everything . . .

Englischer paramedic Mike Colder is only returning to his childhood hometown to locate and adopt his late sister’s baby boy. But when the trail leads to Hannah and Grace, Mike’s determination falters. With Hannah, the simple life he left behind suddenly seems appealing. Despite their wildly different worlds, can Mike and Hannah give each other the greatest gift of all: a life together?

For more information or to purchase, click  HERE

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.



From HS Creative Writing Assignment to Debut Novel: The Evolution of Matty ReddGiving Distinctive Voices to the People in your Head with guest Sandra OrchardIt’s Almost Here!  New Release and a GiveawayWriting the Book Blurb - Part 2My Obsession with ResearchUtilizing Amazon’s Buying and Gifting eBooks for Others FeatureSpecial Guest Renee Ryan

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