When Val Kilmer Winks

Remember the scene in Tombstone, when Doc Holiday winks at Billy Clanton at the OK Corral? Wyatt Earp says something like, “Aw, hell,” and all hell breaks loose in the scene.

Wyatt, played by Kurt Russel, wasn’t responding to Val Kilmer’s wink—he was responding to Billy Clanton’s reaction. Thomas Haden Church played the role beautifully.

It’s a tense moment. The good guys are armed, ready to take on the bad guys, who aren’t quite ready for them. Doc and the Earps show up to the corral and surprise them, and for a few moments, the bad guys are stunned. Then, the Clantons et al. get their guns and for a few more tense moments, everyone’s staring down everyone else’s barrels. Billy Clanton has fear in his eyes as he glances from one gunman to the next. His fear and uncertainty are legible on his face.

But when Doc winks, his expression shifts. He goes from fear to fury in less than a nano-second, Wyatt says “Aw, hell,” and the fighting begins in earnest.

Watching all this in a movie is one thing, writing it is another. If I could teach my writers anything, it would be how to get emotion in with all that action. One of the reasons movies work so well is because viewers get to see both action and emotion.

The actors of horror films know that the big bad guy coming after them during the shoot isn’t really going to hurt them—they’d just had lunch together, for cryin’ out loud. They’d seen him without all his makeup. They knew the ax he wields is plastic.

But in the movie, they’re supposed to run from him, come up with ways to hide from him, figure out how to take him down. Occasionally they’re supposed to be so close to him they can feel his breath on their skin. All sorts of action going on.

But what grips the audience is the illusion of fear and danger—and that’s presented by the emotion the actors portray, even though they just had lunch with the big ol’ monster. This is “big” acting. It’s obvious. Monster comes after you, you’re scared. You’re wide-eyed and screaming, while the monster is raging at you.

The Doc Holiday/Billy Clanton scene is subtle acting, delivered in a shift of expression. If you remember Titanic, Leonardo di Caprio portrayed the same thing when “Jack” realized he was destined to save Rose, but not himself.

We could have been left with the idea that he’d found a headboard big enough for Rose to lie on. He got her on it, then battled the waves to try to get on it himself. The headboard tilts, Rose begins to slide off. He treads water for a while. Action, action, action.

But it’s not until the shift in his eyes do we get his reaction, his emotion. It’s not until the shift in Billy Clanton’s eyes that we get reaction and emotion. Emotion is what makes a piece memorable.

I don’t know how many times I’ve said it on this blog, but I’ll say it again: Action is great, but it’s emotion that draws viewers in. Emotion draws readers in. You can have a laundry list of action that may be interesting, but it won’t be engaging. And our job is to engage our readers.

Learn to illustrate emotion, through physical reaction and through mental monologue. Including it in with the action enhances the scene and amps it up. Draw on your own experiences and emotions. If you were going through the exact same thing, how would you respond? Or, draw on what you know about your character. How would he respond? Don’t just write the scene, amp it up with the intangibles that all of us experience.


Similar posts: “Expressions of Pain,” “A Law of Physics–er, Writing

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Especially for Writers

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Of Story-telling, Beth Moore, and El Elyon

Earlier this year, when I was between studies, I asked the Lord to lead me to a new one. Well, He led me to three—which makes me thankful I wake up around four in the morning, or I’d never be able to keep up with them.

My favorite by far is this one, The Patriarchs: Encountering the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The title explains what the study is about, but the subtitle explains it better: Encountering the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. My reference for it is even simpler:  Encountering God. This study is primarily about the One True God revealed in His many titles that illustrate His attributes, characteristics, and personality.

In today’s study, revealing God’s title of El Elyon (Most High God, Creator/Possessor of Heaven and Earth), we encounter Melchizedek, who is one of the biggest mysteries in the Bible. Who was he? Where’d he come from? He wasn’t from the blessed lineage, so who sanctified him as a priest? Information about him throughout the Bible is sketchy, but we know through the author of the letter to the Hebrews that Jesus, born in the family of Judah (the royal branch), is not a priest according to the Levitical line, but of the Order of Melchizedek, Priest of El Elyon, making Him both separate from the law and the embodiment and fulfillment of the law.

What caught my attention and imagination was Beth’s comments on page 28 of the study guide, right after we’re introduced to the mysterious new character Melchizedek:

I am convinced that the totality of everything God has told us about Himself in His Word and in nature is little more than a hint. He is the master of surprise who exults in unveiling revelations. 

. . . the most ingenious and creative thoughts of man are mere whispers of God’s abilities.

Man’s vast creativity and capability to spin a tale or unveil a mystery is just another part of how humans are created in the image of God. He is the master storyteller, weaving a thousand story lines together over the course of 66 books and many centuries.

As a writer, this just made my day. It confirmed my belief that creating worlds and people is God-like—just as God-like as healing the sick, judging the accused, ruling the nation. Just as God-like as loving the unloved and unloveable, having mercy, understanding the misunderstood.

We have these abilities because God has these abilities to a degree far higher than we can possibly imagine. Doctors know about the human body only a miniscule portion of what the Creator of that body knows, but God shared His knowledge with them in order that they may heal. Righteous judges can make righteous judgments based upon the wisdom the wisest Judge provides them. And so on throughout my examples: We can do what we do because He does them. He does in purity and perfection what we, in our humanness, tend to pervert, but still, we obtain our ability to do them at all because we are made in His image.

We can create and write and bring people to laughter or tears, joy or shame, because He gave us a tiny part of the creativity He possesses. Because we are made in His image, we are able to do to a tiny degree what He does in an infinite degree.

We are not gods and we certainly aren’t anywhere near God, but because we are created in His image, we have His qualities in us. Just think about it—the Creator/Possessor of Heaven and Earth gave His creative abilities to us.

Which brings me to another point:

If you measure your god by what you are able or not able to do—“the earth couldn’t have been created in 6 days! It’s impossible!” or “nobody can heal that infirmity. It’s impossible!”—then you have things backward. Don’t measure Him by your abilities, but measure Him by your inabilities. Face it: What you think is impossible, He’s already done.

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General Update of Sorts

Things around here got mighty busy mighty fast, not that I’m complaining. Here are the highlights:

I’ve been editing our novellas for our Tiny House Collection and, let me tell you, you’re in for some great stories. So far, I’ve worked on three out of seven, and they’re all terrific. The fourth one, the one I’m editing now, is by Chandra Lynn Smith, an unpublished author who is excited about this collection because it shifts her status to “professional.” I promise you, her story is as professional as they come. Just because she’s never been published doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be. She’s good—as are the authors whose novels I’ve edited so far. Pamela S. Meyers  has a special touch with handicapped characters. One of her secondary characters in this collection is a deaf child, but still totally a kid–normal in every way, including sweetness, impatience, and bit of childlike bluntness. Kimberly S. McKay‘s story illustrates how frustrating life can be when what God wants you to do and what you’re actually doing are two different things. And Sci-Fi-author-turned-Women’s-Fiction/Romance author (for now). Yvonne Anderson shows how a little distance from the problem and a lot of Heavenly influence via new neighbors can bring about healing.

Believe me, I’m looking forward to editing—or at least reading—all the other stories. This is going to be one fun collection!

Aside from these, I’ve also finally gotten a toe-hold into Ride to the Altar.  This one has truly been a bear to work with. I think I’ve mentioned before that I started over four times before I got anything that remotely resembles something workable. I’ve had some exciting writing sessions. Seems like when I sit down to the keyboard now, I know exactly what I want to accomplish and how to get it done. Believe me, it’s about time.

I’ve also been working on my new website—not a blog, but a real, live, honest-to-goodness website that has been a year in the making (primarily because my designer’s schedule so often clashes with my own). Won’t be long now before I can reveal it to the world, but I still need to make sure all the bugs have been squashed.

Last, or at least “last of what I’m ready to reveal,” I’ve been trying to figure out how to promote multiple books. This is a lot harder than I thought. Although having a social presence is important, I’ve discovered that it’s not enough. The best form of promotion I’ve found is through the email services like BookBub, but I can’t always afford ads for each of my books. So, I make memes, plaster them everywhere, and hope they’ll draw attention to my novels. I wonder how people who have multiple releases per year keep up with all the promotions. Do they stop promoting one the moment another is released? I have no clue.

I’m still learning. Mostly, I’m learning how much there is that I need to learn. Most of this end of the business seems like a stab in the dark, and there are a whole lot of us stabbing around in the dark. Occasionally, someone stabs a great idea, and that idea gets passed around until everyone’s done it and it’s time to find something fresh. I don’t know that I’ve come up with any great ideas, so I just keep on making memes . . .

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Especially for Writers


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Another SOTP Post

In the on-going debate between those who outline like crazy and those who write by the seat of the pants (SOTP), I tend to land in the middle these days. I tried outlining, even thought I could make it work, but no. Sorry. Not a good method for me.

But outliners have a point too. SOTP writing can often be disconnected, shallow, ineffective. Of course, the best SOTP’ers know that their first draft is just that–a draft to be edited and revised and reworked. It is to the SOTP’er what the outline is to the outliner.

Some of you know that I’ve been having a hard time with Ride to the Altar. I rewrote the first chapter four times and couldn’t move on (I’m one of those who can’t move on to chapter two unless chapter one is near perfect). This has bothered me no end. I closed shop for client edits around October last year with the intent of finishing Kayla’s Challenge for the Coming Home collection and starting Ride to the Altar so I could publish it in May.

Well, I got part of that done. Kayla’s Challenge is ready to rumble.

But Ride to the Altar is a different genre for me, and I’ve been struggling. It’s on my mind constantly. What am I doing wrong? How can I fix this? How can I weave in the subplot? How can I …. ? Why can’t I …. ? What’s wrong with me?!

While I was at the writer’s retreat, I came closer, and when I got home from the writer’s retreat, I had an epiphany and jotted down all the major events that should occur from beginning to end. But that was it. I still couldn’t fix the first chapter.

Then, while I was at Mom’s last week, I had another epiphany (around three in the morning, of all things. Who needs sleep? Sleep is for wimps!). But that epiphany told me how to fix the first chapter, and I’ve been on a roll ever since. Don’t know that I’ll make my deadline, but at least I can write again.

What does this have to do with SOTP writing?

I think out the outline. It’s all there, in my head, and when everything starts falling into place, I write. Until everything is right, I’m stymied. I suppose I could write an extensive outline, but I don’t see the point. Once I’ve thought it all out and know where I’m going and how to get there, why not just start writing? It’s a draft, after all. An outline with flesh, if you prefer.

The more I learn about the craft of writing—character and setting development, arc, structure, dialogue, etc.—the easier writing becomes. What occupies my mind is the plot, and once I develop the plot in my head, along with character motives, goals, and roadblocks, I can start writing. Craft comes naturally because of years of study.

So, again, I think of myself as a hybrid. I outline, I just don’t write it down. I know the sequence of events, but I get from point to point by the seat of my pants. But I can’t move from chapter to chapter unless the previous chapter is close to perfect. Don’t know if that’s SOTP or OCD, but there ya go. That’s how I roll.

Everyone develops their own style of writing. What’s yours?

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Cindy received quite a few comments for her novel, Secrets & Charades, but, of course, only one could win. And that winner is: “paynefulponderings”!

So Ms. Payne, I’ll be contacting you soon to tell you how to claim your prize. I know you’re going to enjoy the book, and I hope you tell everyone you know about it!

This may be the perfect time to remind “paynefulponderings” and all my readers how vital reviews are to authors.

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Especially for Writers

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Word Weavers: a way to grow your writing skills

Words of wisdom from one of my favorite authors, Cindy Huff~~~


I am a strong proponent of critique groups. A well-run group can transform a novice into a pro. When I knew I needed other writers around me to hold me accountable I began to pray. I wanted to do better. Reading craft books and attending a conference once a year wasn’t enough.

While taking online classes with the Christian Writer’s Guild I heard about critique groups. The value they brought to the writing craft. Word Weavers was recommended as one of the best. Originating in Florida about 20 years ago it has spread across the nation and Canada.

I called and begged them to hook me up with a local group. There were none in Illinois at the time. Under their direction I started a group in Aurora, Illinois. Now there are about half a dozen groups shattered through Illinois. A few years ago online groups were started for those who live to far from a group. It is also open to existing members. Twice a month critiques works great for me.

Word Weavers primary goal is to help Christian writers get published. Their method has produced hundreds of published authors. After attending Word Weavers and applying what I learned I found my writing evolving. I truly believe Word Weavers was the game changer toward publication.

Each Word Weaver chapter abides by a set of guidelines. The key to successful critiques is silence. Each participant brings six copies of a piece to critique. It can’t be more than 1500 words When chapter membership grows beyond six, the members regroup into units of 4-6 to insure everyone gets critiqued during the two hour session.

The technique is simple. My submission is read aloud by another member. The rest of the group mark up my submission as its being read. Then take a few minutes afterward to add notes. I always find grammar errors, POV and syntax stuff when I hear someone else read it.

Then each member spends a few minutes sharing what they like about the piece, what they think needs work and ends with another positive comment. The writer being critiqued is not allowed to speak unless asked a direct question. This keeps things moving and prevents arguments and long winded discussions. The writer can choose to implement the recommendations or ignore them.

Novice writers often get critiqued on some basics while more established writers get tougher critiques. This way the novice is learning without feeling overwhelmed. There is a feeling of accomplishment when each writer reaches the deeper critique level. No one can just come and critique. They must bring something to share. And only members can participate. Interested writers can come to two meetings and observe. After that they need to pay dues. Observers usually know by the second meeting whether Word Weavers is a good fit.

Some other advantages are developing a network with other writers. We share writing, marketing and publishing tips. Some groups have special speakers quarterly. The larger group have a yearly weekend retreat. Now one understands my need to write like other writers. Within a critique group strong friendships grow. These are the people who will help promote your work when the time comes. In the past few years Word Weavers has added accountability partners. Those members who want accountability can request a partner. I love my accountability partner. Knowing I’ll need to send an email to report my progress, procrastination or problems has help me strive toward more professionalism.


cindy-2016Cindy Ervin Huff is the winner of the 2014 Editor’s Choice Award from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is a contributor to Splickety Publishing Group’s anthology and has been featured on Christian Communicator, Suburban Dog, ChristianDevotions.us, and Splickety Lightning Blog. Cindy is President of the Aurora, Illinois, chapter of Word Weavers. She and her husband make their home in Aurora, Illinois. Visit Cindy on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cindyehuff, follow her on www.twitter.com/CindyErvinHuff, or connect with her at www.jubileewriter.wordpress.com.


Guess what?! Cindy is offering her newest release as a giveaway. I’ve read it—you don’t want to miss this! Leave a message to enter the drawing!

cindys-bookJake Marcum’s busy ranch leaves him no time for courting, and his wounded heart has no place for love. When battlefield nightmares disturb his peace and his tomboy niece, Juliet, needs taming, somehow a mail-order bride seems like a logical solution.
Dr. Evangeline Olson has no idea her niece is writing to a rancher on her behalf, and she sure isn’t interested in abandoning her medical practice for a stranger. But when an inheritance threatens to reveal a long-buried secret, she travels west to become Jake’s wife.

Jake soon realizes Evangeline is more than he bargained for, especially when her arrival causes a stir in the community. As the two try to find their way in a marriage of convenience, their fragile relationship is further tested by cattle rustling and kidnapping. Can their hearts overcome past hurts to create a real marriage?


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The Newest in Christian Titles!

March 2017 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:reunion-at-crane-lake
Reunion at Crane Lake
by Robin Bayne — Colt’s memory is returning after the accident that ended his career. Now he wants to take over his family’s inn, but he’ll have to partner with his former fiancée to be able to afford it. He’ll need forgiveness to make that happen. Tia’s goal is clear: to return the inn to its former grandeur. And she’ll even work with Colt to do so. But like the inn, their relationship needs a lot of work. He broke her heart…can she ever trust him again? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

by Fay Lamb — She’s a starving artist facing a serious illness; he’s the doctor who’s her only hope of survival. If only she hadn’t caused his sister to die. (Contemporary Romance from Write Integrity Press)

Muffins & Moonbeams
by Elizabeth Maddrey — Malachi Baxter is happy to hide in the background and manage the business-end of the family bakery. He’d much rather live in the online world of computer games where he can explore the galaxy and no one has to know he’s deaf. Ursula Franks designs websites during the day and spends her evenings battling alien races online where relationships are easy and uncomplicated. When she agrees to design a website for the local Community Supported Bakery, she has no idea that Malachi is the real man behind her online persona’s best friend and her own secret crush.As the two work together on the website, they uncover an attraction, but will they be able to put aside past hurt and insecurity to find love? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Then Came You: A Bradford Sisters Novella
by Becky Wade — Garner Bradford, heir to the troubled Bradford Shipping empire, doesn’t know much about babies. But he’s going to have to learn fast because he’s just become a single father to his newborn daughter. Career girl Kathleen Burke is wholly uninterested in settling down. She has big dreams, and none of them include Garner and his small hometown in Washington State. Yet she can’t seem to get her handsome boss out of her head or her heart…. (Romance Novella, Independently Published)

When the Bough Breaks
by Ane Mulligan — Her dream job has a Catch 22—and time’s running outRookie lobbyist Sienna O’Shea is determined to make a name for herself in New York’s capitol city and use that influence to gain easier access to her birth records. For years she’s searched for her birth mother, but when she’s handed her first assignment—to lobby support for the permanent sealing of all adoption records—her worlds collide. Swept up into the intrigue of backroom politics, falling in love was not on Sienna’s agenda, but the candidate for Lt. Governor runs a formidable campaign to make her his first lady. When an investigative reporter discovers foreign money infiltrating political campaigns, the trail leads to Sienna’s inner circle. (General, Independently Published)

The Memory of You
by Catherine West — Thirteen years ago, Natalie lost a part of herself when her twin sister died. Will traveling back to the family winery finally put the memory to rest, or will it completely destroy her? (General from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

Cozy Mystery:murder-is-no-accident
Murder Is No Accident
by A. H. Gabhart — When murder comes to call at a stately Victorian house, the town of Hidden Springs looks to Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane to solve the crime before anyone else dies. (Cozy Mystery from Revell [Baker])

Historical Romance:a-rocky-mountain-romance
A Rocky Mountain Romance
by Misty M. Beller — When Zeche takes shelter from a blizzard in a remote cabin, he doesn’t expect to find a beautiful woman and her father, a disturbed Civil War veteran. Zeche’s instincts tell him Greta is endangered and he should stay and protect her, but his own presence aggravates her father’s condition. With a dangerous snowstorm outside and growing hostilities inside, can he find a way to keep them all safe from harm? Or will it be to the detriment of his heart? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

A Stolen Heart
by Amanda Cabot — From afar, Cimarron Creek seems like an idyllic town tucked in the Texas Hill Country. But when former schoolteacher Lydia Crawford steps onto its dusty streets in 1880, she finds a town with a deep-seated resentment of Northerners–like her. Lydia won’t let that get her down, though. All will be well when she’s reunited with her fiancé. But when she discovers he has disappeared–and that he left behind a pregnant wife–Lydia is at a loss about what to do next. The handsome sheriff urges her to trust him, but can she trust anyone in this town where secrets are as prevalent as bluebonnets in spring? (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])

My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains: Carmela’s Quandary by Susan Page Davis — Experience the Wild West as Carmela seeks freedom of body and soul. Forced for years by her uncle to pose as a survivor of an Indian kidnapping so he can profit on the speaker circuit, she longs to end the lies. On a stagecoach in Arizona Territory, Carmela and her uncle are fellow passengers with a deputy US marshal and his handcuffed prisoner. When the stage is attacked, will Carmela’s wish come true, or will she forever be branded by her past? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Desert Moon & Honor Bound
by Susan Page Davis and Colleen L. Reece — Enjoy an Old West romance adventure from author Susan Page Davis. Julia Newman looked forward to moving home to Arizona, then she got word that her mother has died and Julie’s stagecoach is robbed. If that wasn’t enough, the first person she sees in town is Adam Scott—the man she always loved but could never have—and now he is accusing her brother of criminal activity. Also includes a bonus historical romance, Honor Bound by Colleen L. Reece. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Her Motherhood Wish
by Keli Gwyn — En route to the Double T Orphanage to work on its expansion, carpenter Chip Evans and Caroline Hunt discover two orphaned children—and become their caregivers. But Chip’s determined not to let himself get too attached to the children who just lost their widowed father…or to the lovely woman helping him care for them. Especially since Callie and the little ones just don’t fit into his detailed plans for the future. Callie can’t help but fall in love with the orphans, and despite her better judgment, she’s falling for Chip, too. Her dreams of being a wife and mother were not quite like this. But Callie believes a plan bigger than Chip’s brought them all together…and now she just has to help him see it, too. (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Planter’s Daughter
by Michelle Shocklee — When her father’s Texas cotton plantation faces bankruptcy, Adella must choose between the man who can her family’s land and the man who can save her! (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

When Tides Turn
by Sarah Sundin — When Quintessa Beaumont learns the US Navy has established the WAVES program for women, she enlists, eager to throw off her frivolous ways and contribute to the war effort. Lt. Dan Avery employs his skills in antisubmarine warfare to fight U-boats at the peak of the Battle of the Atlantic, but the last thing he wants to see on his radar is fun-loving Tess. As Dan and Tess work together in Boston, the changes in Tess challenge his notions–and his heart. (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])

Medical Suspense:agent-in-training
Doctor’s Dilemma
by Richard L. Mabry M.D. — Young surgeon Tyler Gentry thought the offer to join the Hall Group of surgeons offered the answer to his problems, but things changed when he received a 3 AM phone call that told him such a move would be hazardous to his health. (Medical Suspense, Independently Published)

Romantic Suspense:her-baby's-protector
Her Baby’s Protector
by Margaret Daley and Susan SleemanSaved by the Lawman by Margaret Daley: As an unknown assailant attempts to kidnap family-court judge Kate Forster’s infant son, police officer Chase Walker thwarts the attack—and vows to keep the pair safe. But who will protect the ex-marine’s heart when the widowed mother and her little boy make him long for a permanent spot in their family? Saved by the SEAL by Susan Sleeman: The tragedy that killed Bree Hatfield’s best friends–and left her with custody of their young daughter–has been ruled an accident. But Bree knows it was murder. Scared and alone, she turns to her ex-boyfriend, navy SEAL Clint Reed, who’ll risk everything to protect baby Ella and the woman he never stopped loving. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

by Terri Reed — FBI intern Zara Fielding and her K-9 partner, Radar, stumble across a robbery gone wrong and put themselves in the criminals’ crosshairs. Her childhood friend FBI computer guru Dylan O’Leary works for the secretive FBI unit she longs to join, and he vows not to let anything happen to her. As they work to stay one step ahead of the bad guys, new feelings ignite. When she goes missing, it’s only Dylan–and Radar–who can track her down. Will they arrive in time to save her and the future she and Dylan have started dreaming about? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Speculative Romance/Fantasy:ingrid's-engagement
Ingrid’s Engagement
by Kristen Reed — When King Viggo marches through the kingdom of Schlagefilde in a relentless quest for retribution against its wicked king, the Count of Anselm attempts to make peace with him. As the two strike a deal that will protect the people of Anselm, the King of Villriket becomes enthralled with a portrait of the Count’s oldest daughter, Ingrid. The vengeful king vows that he will leave Edmund’s county in peace if he will allow him to marry Ingrid. To prevent her father from incurring the sovereign’s wrath, the young lady hastily agrees and enters into an unforeseen engagement with the grim ruler. Ingrid’s Engagement tells the enchanting tale of a beautiful young woman who softens the hardened heart of a beastly king with nothing more than her quiet wisdom and gentle spirit. (Speculative Romance/Fantasy, Independently Published)

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