Seekerville: The Journey Continues | category: writing takeaway


Seekerville: The Journey Continues

Corn Shuckins, Bootleggin’, and Gun Slingin’, oh My! with guest Pepper Basham

Corn Shuckins, Bootleggin’, and Gun Slingin’, oh My! with guest Pepper Basham

Hi Seeker villagers! Carrie here, and I am delighted to host my dear friend Pepper Basham today! Her new book, The Red Ribbon, released October 1st as part of Barbour's True Colors historical true crime fiction series! Take it away Pepper, my Pepper!

Corn Shuckins, Bootleggin’, and Gun Slingin’, oh My!
(Or… What Writing My First Romantic Suspense Taught Me)

by Pepper Basham

On a little knoll overlooking the green rolling hills of Fancy Gap, Virginia, stands an old, white Queen Anne style house quite out of place among the country businesses and small houses scattered nearby. It had always been such a curious sight as I traveled from my house “below the mountain” to high school “above the mountain” in Carroll County, Virginia, where I grew up. The Sidna Allen House—a place which carried rumors of a courthouse shootout, nationwide manhunt, and a massive feud, and it all started with a kiss.

As a teenager driving the winding roads of the Appalachian Mountains, I don’t think I ever imagined delving into the true story of this scar on Virginia history. It’s not a happy story. It’s a true crime.

And as I began my research, many times, there appeared to be no REAL heroes. So when I took the opportunity to bring this unknown tragedy to light through fiction, I struggled with several things.

1.      How do I walk the fine line between truth and respecting the generations of families who still live in my hometown with the lingering effects of this story?

2.      How do I write a story about something that still rings with unanswered questions today?

3.      But most importantly, how can I bring grace into this tragic tale so that the readers will see the hope of Christ in the middle of tragedy?

I’m not a suspense writer, guys. I’m a ROMANCE writer. I write KISSING BOOKS. What on earth was I doing writing a TRUE CRIME fiction?

Well this tragedy starts with a kiss so that helped 😊

Plus, I added a few extra kisses to sweeten the deal.

But this story was dark. Sad. It peeled back the culture I love and shone light on its underbelly. Most of my family STILL live in Carroll County, so the way I handled this story mattered.

Here are a few things I learned.

1.      Writing suspense is painful 😊Seriously, I was sore from my jaws down after I finished this story. I like a little suspense here and there, but I’m not sure my body’s made for writing it on a regular basis. If you write suspense, do you have to see a chiropractor weekly or monthly? LOL

2.      Praise God for fictional characters! When I began working through the history of this story, my fictional hero, heroine, and a few secondary characters helped me weave hope, truth, and…romance into the darker creases of the true crime. Real people are fascinating, but sometimes, we just need to bring in a few make-believe people to round out the hardened edge of fact.

3.     Pain is pain, no matter the era, but kindness is universal too. Tragedy is no respecter of persons. Some pain we bring on ourselves and some happens to us because we live in a broken world. Life is HARD ya’ll! Writing this story just reminded me that pain has been around a long time, so has unforgiveness. What we all need is a lot more compassion, shorter fuses, quicker forgiveness, and quieter tongues. We also need a clearer perspective. Everyone has a backstory, and most of the time we don’t know the deeper hurts people carry which then influences their behavior. Compassion and kindness are universally beautiful and have the power to soften those hardened edges of tragedy and provide healing.

4.    We ALL need hope. Where would we be without it? At first, it was hard to find hope in the research of The Red Ribbon. The true events behind this story don’t have a happily-ever-after for many of the nonfiction characters, but as Christians we live in a dark world with the light of Christ’s hope shining into every shadow. It’s how we should think and breathe. And how much more light is needed when the story is so dark? That’s why, as Christians who write fiction, I think it’s important for us to keep that perspective. Our faith doesn’t have to preach on each page. It can be whispered throughout the story in the character’s actions, responses, and in the scenes, but of all things, our stories should carry the fragrance of hope within them. After all, we’re the storytellers of the God of Hope.

If Christ used story to bring truth and hope, it seems pretty natural for his kids to incorporate the same things into their stories. Don’t you think?

What books have you read lately that helped bring hope to your world? 

 About Pepper Basham & The Red Ribbon

Corn Shuckins, Bootleggin’, and Gun Slingin’, oh My! with guest Pepper Basham

An Appalachian Feud Blows Up in 1912
Step into True Colors -- a new series of Historical Stories of Romance and American Crime
In Carroll County, a corn shucking is the social event of the season, until a mischievous kiss leads to one of the biggest tragedies in Virginia history. Ava Burcham isn’t your typical Blue Ridge Mountain girl. She has a bad habit of courtin’ trouble, and her curiosity has opened a rift in the middle of a feud between politicians and would-be outlaws, the Allen family. Ava’s tenacious desire to find a story worth reporting may land her and her best friend, Jeremiah Sutphin, into more trouble than either of them planned. The end result? The Hillsville Courthouse Massacre of 1912. 

Amazon | B&N 

Corn Shuckins, Bootleggin’, and Gun Slingin’, oh My! with guest Pepper Basham

 As a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Pepper Basham enjoys sprinkling her Appalachian into her fiction writing. She is an award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance, mom of five, speech-language pathologist, and a lover of Jesus and chocolate. She resides in Asheville, North Carolina with her family. You can learn more about her on her website, or connect on Facebook or Twitter.


Carrie is giving away a print copy of The Red Ribbon to one commenter! Can be international shipping as long as Book Depository ships to your country. 

What books have you read lately that helped bring hope to your world?

Fabulous First Lines in Fiction

Fabulous First Lines in Fiction

Happy Friday, Seeker villagers! Every third month, when my Friday rolls around, I suffer from a serious case of imposter syndrome. Panic sets in over the dreaded questions - What will I write about? Do I HAVE anything to contribute that anyone will care about? Will this be the month that I turn in my Seekerville badge and slink off to the 'I'm not a writer' corner? 

As predicted, I talked myself off that same ledge this month too. I came up with - and rejected - several ideas and finally remembered this little tidbit: on my own blog, I recently celebrated completing 200 'First Line Friday' posts. That's 200 posts of potential Seekerville post material! Eureka! I'm saved to survive on Seekerville for another three months!

Now, I am admittedly not an author. So I can't talk a lot about the technique and craft of first lines, but I can share some of my favorite first lines in fiction and look at what they have in common. (And fortunately for me, Debby Giusti talked about first lines/chapters last year!)

Let's start out with a little game! Can you match these classic first lines to their books? (I'll post the answers in the comments) 

Fabulous First Lines in Fiction

The books you have to choose from for the above first lines are: 
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston 
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville

And here are some recent faves I've loved from the 200 'First Line Friday' posts I've done on my blog: 

Fabulous First Lines in Fiction Fabulous First Lines in Fiction

Fabulous First Lines in FictionFabulous First Lines in Fiction

Fabulous First Lines in Fiction    Fabulous First Lines in Fiction 

Aren't they great? What are some things they have in common (including the classic first lines in our little game)?

  • They immediately grab your attention. Maybe you're chuckling at some poor soul being voluntold for horrors unknown, unfortunate Eustace Clarence Scrubb of the almost-deserved name, or a crime-committing mama raccoon. Maybe you're captivated by the clever (or poetic) wordsmithing. Maybe you're just plain intrigued by what comes after that first line - where could it go from here? Regardless, each of these twelve first lines definitely (and immediately) has you committed to discovering the rest of the book. 
  • They are a bit vague. By that, I mean that a captivating first line raises more questions than it answers. Who was voluntold for what? Who is Ishmael & why do we care? (spoiler alert - we don't.) Why did poor Eustace almost deserve his name, and why only almost? What caused that 'swell of instant silence and intense heat'? This immediate need for more information again engages the reader's full attention & keeps them reading. 
  • They can be poetic. The first line from Pepper Basham's The Thorn Keeper is one of my very fave first lines because it's so beautiful and wistful and a bit sad, too. Reading a first line like that - or the one from Beth Troy's Lu or quote #5 in the game list above - tells me I must keep reading to discover what other poetically beautiful gems are tucked inside this book!
  • But they don't have to be. Lines like the ones from The Cupcake Dilemma by Jennifer Rodewald or More Than We Remember by Christina Suzann Nelson (and even #4 from our guessing game) are more humorous and maybe a little bit snarky. That doesn't necessarily mean the rest of the book is written in that tone - though it might - but yet again it keeps me reading to find out. 

Like I said, I don't claim to be an author. I don't know all the technical craft speak to tell you why these twelve first lines are so captivating. All I can tell you as an avid reader is 1) they are captivating and 2) they all kept me reading. Your first line doesn't have to look like these; it should reflect your style and your story. But a great question to ask as you re-read during edits or at some other point in your writing process is: "Would I want to keep reading this book if this is all I had to go on?" No cover. No back cover copy. No author interview. Just that first line. Would it intrigue you enough to want to know 'the rest of the story'?

If so, you've found your own fabulous first line! Go forth & write, dear authors. I am cheering you on! 

What do you find the most difficult about writing a first line?
What is one of your fave first lines? (either your own or another author's)
What intrigued you most about it?


Fabulous First Lines in Fiction
Carrie Schmidt is an avid reader, book reviewer, story addict, KissingBooks fan, book boyfriend collector, and cool aunt. She also loves Jesus and THE Story a whole lot. Co-founder of the Christian Fiction Readers' Retreat and JustRead Publicity Tours, LLC, Carrie lives in Kentucky with her husband Eric. 

She can be found lurking at various blogs and websites (because she can't stop talking about books) but her main home is the blog she started in 2015 -

10 Writer Takeaways From My Trip To Disney World

10 Writer Takeaways From My Trip To Disney World
Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

Last week I took a trip to Orlando with one of my daughters. She was running in some of the Disney races and I went along to be her cheerleader. And of course we spent time playing at the parks and visiting Disney Springs. We had a fabulous time - of course I always have fun when I spend time with any of my kids.

But keeping in mind that this blog was coming up, I kept my eyes open for writerly lessons I could take home to share with you.

With that in mind, I present the following:

10 Writer Takeaways From My Trip To Disney World

  1. Disney is Overwhelmingly Positive
    When you’re at Disney World, you’ll see there's always a smile on people's faces, be they characters, vendors, waiters, bus drivers or greeters. And if problems do crop up (we had to wait two hours for our room to be ready) they maintain an upbeat, empathetic attitude and put your comfort at the top of their list.
    Writer Takeaway: Life is going to throw you curves, whether it be health issues, family issues, writers slump, bad reviews or something else. But there’s no upside in deliberately airing these to your readers, especially if you’re just trying to garner sympathy. Your contract with your readers is to entertain and engage them, perhaps even challenge them, and most of all to provide them with a world they can immerse themselves in to forget their own cares for a while.
  2. Managing Expectations
    If you’ve spent any time at Disney World you know that you spend a lot of time standing in lines waiting to get into the rides and attractions. In fact, for one of the more popular rides, my daughter and I spent two hours in line. But there are electronic signs posted outside of each ride letting you know what the expected wait times are so you know up front what you're letting yourself in for and there are no surprises. And every time we stood in line, those numbers were right on the money.
    Writer Takeaway: Always let readers know when they can expect to receive the next release from you and then make sure you meet your deadlines if at all possible.
  3. Keep The Illusion Going
    Speaking of standing in lines, one of the things I noticed was that even in the area set aside for those waiting, Disney was doing their best to keep us entertained. There was special artwork, scenery, flora, audio, etc. to hold your interest, and every bit of it was designed to fit within and support the story world of the ride/attraction.
    Writer Takeaway: There are lots of things I can do to keep my readers engaged between releases, be it newsletters, short stories, bonus content, blog posts or teasers from upcoming releases. But whatever I do, it should fit within my personal brand.
  4. Details Matter
    The 4 Disney World Parks are divided into different areas – for instance Animal Kingdom has Pandora, Africa, Dinosaur Land, as well as others. In each of these areas the landscaping, employee clothing, restaurants, shops, etc. – everything down to the tiniest detail - is themed to match the story world you’ve entered. It is to the extent that an elaborate system of tunnels run under the park so characters from one story world never step into a different story world to risk shattering the illusion.
    Writer Takeaway: All of the details and subtext I put into my stories should be chosen with care so that no author intrusion slides in to spoil the reader immersion into the world I am building for him/her.

  5. Understand And Respect Your Audience
    Before I left for my trip I read somewhere that all employees of Disney World are taught that when you point, for whatever reason, always do it with two fingers. That’s because folks from all over the world visit the parks and in some cultures pointing with one finger is extremely rude. I kept an eye out while I was there and found it to be true, the workers and cast members do this consistently. This is just one small example of how Disney treats their audience as cherished guests.
    Writer Takeaway: Understand who your readers are and what expectations they have for the books they read and the experience each will bring, and be aware of this in your writing. This doesn’t mean you can’t deliver surprises, just that you remain mindful of how you deliver them.

And of course music from Disney movies is everywhere - parks, resorts, buses. And I found 5 takeaways from those as well.

10 Writer Takeaways From My Trip To Disney World

  1. You’ve Got A Friend In Me (from Toy Story)

    Writer Takeaway: Writing can be a lonely, solitary business. Savvy writers will take the time to make personal connections, to be supportive of other writers and to maintain connections with friends outside of the writing community.
  2. Bare Necessities (from Jungle Book)

    Writer Takeaway: Most of us are working with limited resources when it comes to finances and time. But we all bring a special resource to the table – our creativity and storytelling abilities. That is the true ‘bare necessity’ it takes to succeed in this business. As for the rest, work with what you have and know that, if you stay alert to opportunities, you can go a long way on your God-given talent.

  3. A Whole New World (from Aladdin)

    Writer Takeaway:
    Take the time in your worldbuilding to transport your reader to someplace they’ve never been before or to see the familiar in a whole new light, and make sure there are things to make them feel wonder and surprise over.

  4. Let It Go(from Frozen)

    Writer Takeaway: There are things that will come your way – story ideas, promo opportunities, project participation offers, etc. - that you won’t be able to pursue/take advantage of. Hard as it is to let them go, you have to accept that they were not to be and don’t let regrets weigh you down.
  5. Go The Distance (from Hercules)

    Writer Takeaway: No one promised it would be easy or quick – persistence is key to making it in this business. As is the proper training – the best writers know that they never reach the point that they know it all.

10 Writer Takeaways From My Trip To Disney World

There you have it, my 10 writerly takeaways from my trip to Disney World. What do you think? Have you ever been to Disney World and if so do you have anything to add to the list?

Corn Shuckins, Bootleggin’, and Gun Slingin’, oh My! with guest Pepper BashamFabulous First Lines in Fiction10 Writer Takeaways From My Trip To Disney World

Report "Seekerville: The Journey Continues"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?